Are Women Better PIs?

Riffing on a New York Times article about women in business, The Scientist.com asks if female PIs run better labs. They marshal some evidence that women are more attuned to emotions and more prone to work collaboratively, but the verdict is mixed.

Talking about all women or all men is not particularly useful since lab workers usually have just one supervisor, and there’s no guarantee that person behaves like the majority of her or his gender.

There’s also the danger of positive stereotyping. Even if women get tagged with a complimentary reputation as good leaders, it is still condescending to treat female supervisors as predictably sensitive team players. The real victory for gender equality will be when a female researcher is treated as simply a PI, not a woman PI.

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13 Responses to “Are Women Better PIs?”

  1. Linsey M says:

    Hooray! It is so belittling to be thought of as a “woman engineer” rather than just an engineer. At the same time, we need to dismantle the institutional and cultural barriers that inhibit everybody’s career progress–whether as women who are vigorous researchers or men who are compassionate and caring advisors.

  2. pcahn says:

    Gender stereotypes are just one of the barriers that impede career progress. I doubt that simply waiting for the older generation to retire will eliminate discrimination. We need to actively promote a more diverse, tolerant work environment where performance, not identity, is the measure of success.

  3. Faina Schwartz says:

    I am absolutely certain that some women are much better PIs than some men. And some are much worse. :) Stereotyping impedes progress.

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