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Awareness Rises, but Women Still Lag in Pay

Published: March 8, 2010By NICOLA CLARK

PARIS — Companies in the United States, Spain, Canada and Finland lead the world in employing the largest numbers of women from entry level to senior management, according to a report published Monday by the World Economic Forum. Yet the report also found that, despite increasing awareness of gender disparities in the workplace, women at many of the world’s top companies continued to lag behind their male peers in many areas, including pay and opportunities for professional advancement.

Moreover, many of these companies have yet to implement policies to address these gaps, despite pressure from many of their governments to do so.

The forum, based in Switzerland, surveyed 600 heads of human resources offices at the largest employers in 20 countries representing 16 different industries.

The poll assessed companies according to a range of criteria, including rates of female representation, whether the companies measured or set targets for gender balance in pay or promotion, and whether they offered benefits, like paid family leave, to promote work-life balance for their employees.

The findings, which were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, follow the announcement Friday by the European Union of an initiative aimed at significantly narrowing the union’s average 18 percent gender wage gap, which has changed little in the past 15 years.

A study by the 27-member union last year estimated that closing the wage gap could lead to a potential increase of 15 percent to 45 percent in gross domestic product.

A 2009 report by the International Labor Organization found an average 20 percent difference in pay for men and women employed full time in the Group of 20 largest developed and developing economies. Yet the World Economic Forum’s report found that 72 percent of the companies in its survey had no systems to track salary differences by gender.

In addition, 60 percent of the companies said they had no affirmative action policies to promote women within their hierarchies and did not measure women’s participation in their work forces.

Companies in India had the lowest percentage of female employees, 23 percent, just below Japan, with 24 percent, the forum’s report found.

Turkey, Austria and Italy rounded out the bottom five, with women representing just 26 percent, 29 percent and 30 percent of their staffs, respectively.

As its focus was on companies, the forum’s survey did not assess the status of women working in the public sector or in education, areas where female representation is traditionally high and where policies to promote gender balance are often institutionalized by law.

Women remained in the minority of senior corporate managers, representing just 5 percent of the chief executives of the 600 companies surveyed. Finnish companies in the sample had the largest proportion of female chief executives, with 13 percent, followed closely by Norway and Turkey with 12 percent and Italy and Brazil with 11 percent.

The high percentage of female chief executives at Turkish companies, despite having relatively low levels of female employment, was due to the fact that many of the biggest companies were controlled by families where women were at the helm, said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the report and head of the forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program. In Italy, which reported similarly large numbers of women at the top, the companies surveyed were mainly large, multinational corporations.

In both countries, Ms. Zahidi said, “there is a real dearth of women elsewhere in the corporate hierarchy.”

The forum’s findings also follow a global study of 4,500 business school graduates published last month by Catalyst, a U.S.-based organization that advocates for women in the workplace.

The Catalyst study found that, even in this high-potential group, women consistently lagged behind men in advancement and compensation from their very first professional job. The differences held even in comparing men and women of equal levels of work experience and professional aspiration and in discounting for whether or not they had children.

Herminia Ibarra, a professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Insead, an international business school, and a co-author of the forum’s report, said of the findings, “Study after study shows that, in most countries and industries, women enter the workplace pipeline in representative numbers. Then, something fails to happen.”

Posted in NY Times

Risk and Opportunity for Women in 21st Century

By KATRIN BENNHOLDPublished: March 5, 2010

PARIS — Daniel Louvard does not believe in affirmative action. Time and again, the scientists in his Left Bank cancer laboratory have urged him to recruit with gender diversity in mind. But Mr. Louvard, research director at the Institut Curie and one of France’s top biochemists, just keeps hiring more women.

“I take the best candidates, period,” Mr. Louvard said. There are 21 women and 4 men on his team.

The quiet revolution that has seen women across the developed world catch up with men in the work force and in education has also touched science, that most stubbornly male bastion.

Last year, three women received Nobel prizes in the sciences, a record for any year. Women now earn 42 percent of the science degrees in the 30 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; in the life sciences, such as biology and medicine, more than 6 out of 10 graduates are women.

Younger women, too, are sticking more with science after graduating: In the European Union, the number of women researchers is growing at a rate nearly twice that of their male counterparts, giving rise to what some have dubbed a fledgling “old girls network.”

Even Barbie, the iconic doll who in 1992 was infamously made to say, “Math class is tough,” has had a makeover as a computer engineer for her 2010 edition, complete with pink glasses and pink laptop.

But if progress has been dramatic since the two-time Nobel physicist Marie Curie was barred from France’s science academy a century ago, it has been slower than in other parts of society — and much less uniform.

In computer science, for example, the percentage of female graduates from American universities peaked in the mid-1980s at more than 40 percent and has since dropped to half that, said Sue Rosser, a scholar who has written extensively on women in science. In electrical and mechanical engineering, enrollment percentages remain in the single digits. The number of women who are full science professors at elite universities in the United States has been stuck at 10 percent for the past half century. Throughout the world, only a handful of women preside over a national science academy. Women have been awarded only 16 of the 540 Nobels in science.

The tug-of-war between encouraging numbers and depressing details is in many ways the story of the advancement of women overall. Women get more degrees and score higher grades than men in industrialized countries. But they are still paid less and are more likely to work part time. Only 18 percent of tenured professors in the 27 countries of the European Union are women.

And the big money in science these days is in computers and engineering — the two fields with the fewest women.

In the 21st century, perhaps more than ever before, there will be a premium on scientific and technological knowledge. Science, in effect, will be the last frontier for the women’s movement. With humanity poised to tackle pressing challenges — from climate change to complex illness to the fallout from the digital revolution — shortages of people with the right skill sets loom in many countries.

Therein lie both opportunity and risk for women: In the years to come, the people who master the sciences will change the world — and most likely command the big paychecks.

“Women need science and science needs women,” said Béatrice Dautresme, chief executive of L’Oréal Foundation and architect of the L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science awards, honoring five scientists each year from across the world. “If women can make it in science, they can make it anywhere.”

Many obstacles women face in general are starkly crystallized in scientific and technological professions. Balancing a career with family is particularly tricky when the tenure clock competes with the biological clock or an engineering post requires long stints on an offshore oil rig.

For couples, coordinating two careers is especially tough when both are in science. And 83 percent of women scientists in the United States have scientist partners, compared to 54 percent of male scientists.

Battling subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices is that much harder when they are transmitted by educators, from preschool teachers to Lawrence H. Summers, the former president of Harvard University. Ms. Rosser was one of the speakers at a conference in January 2005, where Mr. Summers said that differences in “intrinsic aptitude” between men and women were more important than cultural factors and discrimination in explaining why fewer women succeeded in the sciences.

At least one woman in the audience left in protest, Ms. Rosser recalled. Others, like herself, challenged Mr. Summers after his comments.

The notion that intellectual ability in men has a greater variability — that the most brilliant and the most deficient brains are found in men — first arose in 1894 to explain why there were more men in mental hospitals and fewer women geniuses. It has been discredited by empirical studies, most recently in June, by Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz of the University of Wisconsin, who showed that in some countries there is no difference between men and women at the highest level. Where a difference remains, it is shrinking and correlated with gender inequality, suggesting that cultural, rather than intrinsic, factors are at play.

But stereotypes run deep. At a presentation to high school girls a few years ago, Gigliola Staffilani, a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was asked whether for a woman being smart “makes it hard to date.” Mathematics departments in several universities lament a drop in the number of female applicants. At M.I.T., for example, the share of women applicants to the mathematics graduate program has declined to 13 percent this year from about 17 percent in previous years, Ms. Staffilani said. (But the quality of their applications was so strong, she added, that they will make up 22 percent of the student intake.)

The lack of women role models worries her. It reinforces a view that for girls, well, math class is tough.

Often, conditioning starts early. Blanca Treviño, a Mexican computer scientist and chief executive officer of Softtek, the largest private information-technology service provider in Latin America, recalls that the kindergarten teacher would call her to complain about her daughter, who was playing with a calculator instead of with dolls.

“The lady told me that my daughter was making up stories, saying that her mother had an office and an assistant,” Ms. Treviño said. “The idea that this could be true did not occur to her.”

In India, women scientists have complained that even in science textbooks women are depicted in traditional roles. And in the United States, some psychologists say that the surge in computer games marketed to boys is one explanation for the widening gap in computer sciences since the 1980s.

“There should be a concerted effort to undo these continuing stereotyped expectations,” said Lotte Bailyn, a professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, who studied the phenomenon. “We need more TV shows with women forensic and other scientists. We need female doctor and scientist dolls.”

History shows that good science alone rarely has helped women get the credit they deserved.

Take Lise Meitner, an Austrian-born physicist who was instrumental in discovering nuclear fission with Otto Hahn but who did not share his 1944 Nobel Prize for it. Or Hedy Lamarr, another Austrian, who is remembered for the nude scenes in the notorious 1933 feature film “Ecstasy” and her Hollywood career rather than for developing a technology, with George Antheil, that became the basis for mobile telephony.

It was not until 1967 that the street outside Mr. Louvard’s office window in the Latin Quarter, named Rue Pierre Curie after Marie Curie’s physicist husband, was renamed Rue Pierre et Marie Curie. And it was not until 1995 that Marie Curie’s body was moved to the Panthéon, the monument to the French Republic’s greatest minds. The inscription above the entrance still reads: “To the Great Men.”

It is a detail, but details matter. In dozens of conversations with women scientists and technology executives from the United States, Europe and Asia, a pattern emerged: Many attended single-sex schools and a significant number had scientist parents.

Although somewhat shielded from stereotyping, they still had to balance work and private life. Many do not have children (or have only one), and they are still more likely than the average educated woman to be single or divorced, Ms. Bailyn said.

In the Philippines, Lourdes Cruz, a biochemist and L’Oréal-Unesco laureate for the Asia-Pacific region this year, is a case in point. Educated in a girls’ school and encouraged by a chemist father, she had a successful research career between the University of Utah and the Marine Science Institute in Quezon City. There was never time for marriage, let alone children, she said.

“I spent a lot of time in the laboratory and that was my priority,” said Ms. Cruz, who studies the medical applications of a nerve poison in cone snails.

She often slept on a foam mattress in her office and set her timer to take night-time measurements during long-running experiments.

Women who managed to combine a career in science with family almost invariably say they got lucky in some way. Elizabeth Blackburn, 61, an Australian molecular biologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine last year with Carol Greider, found out in the same week — when she was 37 — that she was pregnant with her son and that she had been offered tenure at the University of California at Berkeley.

Ms. Staffilani, 44, was offered tenure early, at 34, an age when many scientists in American academia have barely embarked on assistant professorships that give them about six years to strive for a permanent post. She was 36 when she had twins. By having two children at once, she had to spend only half the time away from teaching and publishing.

Edith Heard, 44, a British geneticist who runs the developmental biology and genetics department at the Institut Curie, said her good fortune had been moving to Paris with her French partner early on in her career.

“It was a turning point,” said Ms. Heard, a mother of two. “I couldn’t have done it in the U.K. and I couldn’t have done it in the U.S.”

Several of the women with whom she went to university in Britain abandoned scientific careers when they had children, she said.

Ms. Heard benefited from a permanent contract with the French government when she was 28, allowing her to undertake risky experiments often not funded by short-term contracts more common elsewhere. She took 10 weeks’ maternity leave after the birth of each child and relied on France’s state-subsidized child-care system. Perhaps most important, her husband, also a geneticist, shares family duties.

In this, too, Pierre and Marie Curie were trailblazers. If she is still an inspiration for women scientists, it is not only because she received two Nobel prizes, one in physics and one in chemistry. She also had a longtime marriage and two successful daughters.

Pierre, with whom she discovered radioactivity, refused to accept the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics that was offered to him and Henri Becquerel unless his wife shared it.

Their daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won her own Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with her husband, Frédéric Joliot, in 1935. The other daughter, Eve, made the cover of Paris Match, became one of the first women war reporters in World War II and wrote her mother’s biography.Ms. Blackburn read that biography when she was in her teens. “I was impressed by her ability to find great satisfaction in doing science, the message that passionate involvement in science was something an admirable person could do, and her family life as described by her daughter,” she recalled.

Helpful husbands are becoming less rare. Mr. Louvard, whose wife also has a doctorate but gave up her science career to care for their three children, noted: “I see scientists turn up at conferences with their husbands and children now. That was unthinkable until pretty recently.”

But good will alone will not suffice. “The institutions have to change,” Ms. Blackburn said.

Ms. Rosser noted that at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she served as dean until a year ago, women had to take sick leave to give birth, like all state employees.

Both women suggested that stopping the tenure clock for periods during which scientists — women and men — care for young children or elderly parents might motivate more women to pursue a scientific career. Some private universities, like Princeton and M.I.T., already do this. Ensuring that grant money does not dry up during parental leaves and including money for child care in research grants may be another suggestion. The key to any measure, they said, is to make it the default mode rather than optional in order to avoid stigmatizing women.

Recently, two shifts have begun to focus the thinking of politicians and companies: shortages of engineers and other highly qualified labor in the West, and rising numbers of science and technology graduates in countries like China and India, just as the economic balance of power is shifting eastward.

By 2017, a shortfall of 200,000 engineers is expected in Germany, and in Britain more than half a million skilled workers will be needed to satisfy the demands of the green energy, aerospace and transport industries. The United States, meanwhile, finds itself in the bottom third of the O.E.C.D. international rankings of mathematical and scientific aptitude at high school level.

At the same time, developing countries — most notably in Asia — have increased their share of the global researcher pool, from 30 percent in 2002 to 38 percent in 2007, according to Unesco.

The Obama administration has made it a priority to get more women into science. Across the developed world, academia and industry are trying, together or individually, to lure women into technical professions with mentoring programs, science camps and child care.

“This talent pool is extremely important to us,” said Kerstin Wagner, head of talent recruiting for the German electronics giant Siemens. Despite the economic slump, Siemens is having trouble filling some 600 engineering jobs in the United States and more than 1,200 engineering jobs in Germany.

“Everything is in place for more women to succeed in science; now the different pieces just have to come together,” said Ms. Dautresme at the L’Oréal Foundation. “I believe this century will see a lot more women become leaders in science.”

*Posted on NY Times World News

Top French Schools, Asked to Diversify, Fear for Standards

France is embarking on a grand experiment — how to diversify the overwhelmingly white “grandes écoles,” the elite universities that have produced French leaders in every walk of life — and Rizane el-Yazidi is one of the pioneers.Related

France is prodding schools like Sciences Po in Paris to set a goal of increasing the percentage of scholarship students to 30 percent.

The daughter of protective North African parents in the tough northeastern suburb of Bondy, Ms. Yazidi is enrolled in a trial program aimed at helping smart children of the poor overcome the huge cultural disadvantages that have often spelled failure in the crucial school entrance exams.

“For now we’re still a small group, but when there will be more of us, it’ll become real progress,” said Ms. Yazidi, 20. But she is nervous, too. “We’re lucky, but it’s a great risk for us,” she said. “We might never make it” to a top school.

Because entrance to the best grandes écoles effectively guarantees top jobs for life, the government is prodding the schools to set a goal of increasing the percentage of scholarship students to 30 percent — more than three times the current ratio at the most selective schools. But the effort is being met with concerns from the grandes écoles, who fear it could dilute standards, and is stirring anger among the French at large, who fear it runs counter to a French ideal of a meritocracy blind to race, religion and ethnicity.

France imagines itself a country of “republican virtue,” a meritocracy run by a well-trained elite that emerges from a fiercely competitive educational system. At its apex are the grandes écoles, about 220 schools of varying specialties. And at the very top of this pyramid are a handful of famous institutions that accept a few thousand students a year among them, all of whom pass extremely competitive examinations to enter.

“In France, families celebrate acceptance at a grande école more than graduation itself,” said Richard Descoings, who runs the most liberal of them, the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, known as Sciences Po. “Once you pass the exam at 18 or 19, for the rest of your life, you belong.”

The result, critics say, is a self-perpetuating elite of the wealthy and white, who provide their own children the social skills, financial support and cultural knowledge to pass the entrance exams, known as the concours, which are normally taken after an extra two years of intensive study in expensive preparatory schools after high school.

The problem is not simply the narrow base of the elite, but its self-satisfaction. “France has so many problems with innovation,” Mr. Descoings said. Those who pass the tests “are extremely smart and clever, but the question is: Are you creative? Are you willing to put yourself at risk? Lead a battle?” These are qualities rarely tested in exams.

But the schools fear that the government will undermine excellence in the name of social engineering and say the process has to begin further down the educational ladder. The state, they say, should seek out poor students with potential and help them to enter preparatory schools. Of the 2.3 million students in French higher education, about 15 percent attend grandes écoles or preparatory schools. But half of those in preparatory schools will fall short and go to standard universities.

In 2001, Mr. Descoings, 52, who cheerfully admits that he failed the concours twice before passing, began his own outreach program to better prepare less-advantaged students for Sciences Po. Last year, the school accepted 126 scholarship students out of a class of 1,300, and two-thirds of them have at least one non-French parent, he said. But that is a far cry from 30 percent.

One of them, Houria Khemiss, 22, is about to graduate from Sciences Po in law. The daughter of Algerian parents growing up in impoverished St.-Denis in the Paris suburbs, she was pushed by a high school teacher to the special preparatory program. She wants to become a judge, “because then you have a direct impact on people’s lives.” Many at Sciences Po will become the leaders of France, she said, “and because we are there it gives them another point of view.”

Oualid Fakkir, 23, who is graduating with a master’s in finance, said, “It’s very dangerous for France to close its eyes and say, ‘Equality. We have the best values in the world.’ It’s not enough. There has to also be equality of chances.”

But other elite grandes écoles are more specialized than Sciences Po, concentrating on engineering, business management, public administration and science, and they are more concerned about the government’s program.

Last year, Sciences Po accepted 126 scholarship students in a class of 1,300. Two-thirds have at least one non-French parent. Related

Pierre Tapie, 52, is the head of the business school ESSEC and chairman of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, which represents 222 schools.

While he shares the government’s objective of diversity, he said, there is a long educational track before the concours. “We cannot be the scapegoat of any demagogic decision because we are the finest and most famous part of the whole system,” he said. Gen. Xavier Michel, 56, runs École Polytechnique, one of the world’s finest engineering schools and still overseen by the Ministry of Defense. Known as X, the school is extraordinarily competitive, and its students do basic training and parade wearing the bicorne, a cocked hat dating from Napoleon, who put the school under the military in 1804.

“The fundamental principle for us is that students have the capability to do the work here, which is very difficult,” with a lot of math, physics and science, very little of it based on cultural knowledge, General Michel said. Even now, he said, the school takes only 500 students a year, barely 10 percent of its specially educated applicants. “We don’t want to bring students into school who risk failing,” he said. “You can get lost very quickly.”

Despite the misgivings, in February the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, under considerable pressure, signed on to a “Charter of Equal Opportunity” with the government committing the schools to try to reach the 30 percent goal before 2012 or risk losing some financing.

But how to get there remains a point of contention. There is a serious question about how to measure diversity in a country where every citizen is presumed equal and there are no official statistics based on race, religion or ethnicity. A goal cannot be called a “quota,” which has an odor of the United States and affirmative action. Instead, there is the presumption here that poorer citizens will be more diverse, containing a much larger percentage of Muslims, blacks and second-generation immigrants.

The minister of higher education, Valérie Pécresse, argued that French who grow up in a poor neighborhood have the same difficulties regardless of ethnicity.

But the government is examining whether the current test depends too much on familiarity with French history and culture. “We’re thinking about the socially discriminatory character, or not, of these tests,” Ms. Pécresse said. “I want the same concours for everyone, but I don’t exclude that the tests of the concours evolve, with the objective of a great social opening and a better measure of young people’s intelligence.”

The government, with Mr. Tapie’s group, has moved to unify and expand scattered outreach programs from different schools. Copied to some degree from Sciences Po, the program Ms. Yazidi attends tries to reach out to smart children, give them higher goals and help them get into preparatory schools. About 7,000 high school students are currently enrolled, but it is too early to tell whether it will produce a large number of successful applicants.

At one recent session, 10 students, all children of immigrants, were working to pass a special concours for a top business school instead of going right into the job market. Their teacher, Philippe Destelle, pushed them to “look more self-confident” in oral exams and “don’t be afraid to have an opinion.” He told one, “You have the answers, but you don’t trust yourself.”

Salloumou Keita, 22, is vocal and social, but worryingly behind on his math. “We have to prove something,” he said. “There is a look we always get, a questioning — ‘Can he adapt?’ ”

Awa Dramé, is 22, French-born of African parents, confident and talkative. “I don’t mind being a guinea pig, so long as the experiment works,” she said. “Reaching this level was unthinkable before, and I can see myself going higher,” she said. “I’m full of dreams.”

*Found in NY Times World news

Politics Have Always Mattered

Paul Butler is associate dean and the Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University. He is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”

For people who believe that the law is "frozen politics," this is a teachable moment. The justices' politics seem more exposed now than usual, but it was always ever so.

We have a Supreme Court with five justices nominated by Republicans and four justices by Democrats, and it’s a safe bet that they will usually vote along party lines. President Obama took a swipe at the conservatives on the court, no doubt expecting them to sit back and take it with their usual poker faces. But two got right back at him: one shaking his head and muttering to himself, and the other complaining that Obama made the poor justices feel uncomfortable.

And now, Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, has made the news by taking time off from making friends with the Tea Party to call up Anita Hill, who referred the phone message to the police. If this is a reality show, I can’t wait for the next episode.

The Supreme Court looks political because it is political. Sometimes. Many of the cases the court decides are easy, which is why about half of its decisions last term were unanimous. But for difficult cases, of course politics matters.

Most people realize this in obvious cases, like Bush v. Gore, where the conservative justices awarded the presidential election to the conservative candidate.

But otherwise, we pretend the Supreme Court is "objective" because we’d like to believe that there are right and wrong answers to our most pressing social issues. It's an illusion that the answers for questions like whether we can be safe from terrorists and still preserve civil liberties, whether states can bar gay people from getting married, whether affirmative action is discrimination, whether abortion is a woman’s right are all written down in the Constitution, and we just need some really smart people to read it carefully and tell us what it says.

Judicial decisions are called "opinions" for a reason. They are inevitably informed by the justices’ life experiences, their morals, and, yes, their politics. Now, with some of the justices letting it all hang out -- in their own judicial way -- the politics seem more exposed than usual, but it was always ever so.

*found in NY Times Opinion section