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More layoffs in Pharma

Yeah, yeah, I know, lefties would care about us except we’re *pharma*.  Your (lack of) concern is truly touching.

This latest layoff is from Sanofi-Aventis in Bridgewater, NJ.  Hundreds of scientists will be losing their jobs.  20-30% may be transferred to the Cambridge facility.  Looks like NJ just lost a bunch more taxpayers.  There’s not a lot of upside to the layoff of more of my friends and colleagues.  There are a lot more of us biomedical researchers on the market now.  With the recent announcements of layoffs from Merck, Novartis and Amgen, it’s almost as if the spigot was opened full force again.  What is happening to pharma right now would have someone like Steve Jobs spitting nails.  The entire focus has been on extracting every last dollar out of the company and abandoning the product line.  It’s hard to predict what comes next but pharma can’t be bled dry forever and the Chinese are not ready to take over yet.

Geeks are people too and we have caloric and shelter requirements like everyone else.  I would say I am surprised that the Obama administration is not paying greater attention to this problem but by the time the effects of so many unemployed researchers finally hits the American consciousness, he will be out of office.  What might have happened if he had taken Christina Romer up on that suggestion of $100 billion for a jobs program?  We might all be working our butts off in some mothballed lab somewhere, carrying on with the research we were doing, living on decent but unspectacular salaries and paying our taxes.

But since we are not all male construction workers, Obama isn’t worrying his pretty little head about us.

No one is entitled to a second term.

 

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The gender wage gap and “female bodied people”

There was a recent study on the wages of men vs women and surprise, surprise!  The gap is stubbornly stuck at about 85 cents per dollar for women for every dollar men make.  This is after all other factors have been taken into consideration.  From the NYTimes article:

But the study, based on an analysis of Labor Department data, could not determine whether other factors, like previous work experience or other choices made by women in the workplace, were keeping their wages from achieving closer parity, or whether there was still some other discriminatory effect.

Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which commissioned the G.A.O. report, said that he was surprised that despite higher levels of education, the gap between men’s and women’s pay hadn’t narrowed much more. “I would have said we would have seen more progress,” said Senator Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

He said the findings made the need for Congressional action on job creation more acute. “Every week that goes by where you don’t have progress on those measures is obviously going to make the situation worse for everyone,” he said. “But low-wage workers are having some of the most difficult challenges, and those challenges just get more significant.”

Yes, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is scratching his head.  This makes no sense.  No, it doesn’t.  It also doesn’t make sense that men are recovering from this prolonged recession better than women are.  I mean, it makes sense because they are more likely to be able to tap into their Old Boys’ Network to find new jobs.  But why women don’t have the same access to those same jobs?  No, that makes no sense.

But isn’t Senator Casey one of those pro-life Democrats?  Like, what does that have to do with it?  Oh, I don’t know.  But it seems like women have spent the last 40 years battling for equality based on whether or not they can get an abortion.  By the way, there’s no law on earth that will stop women from getting abortions, unless you incarcerate them and put them in straight jackets for being pregnant.  Technically, we may not be equal yet but I don’t think even Mississippi can do that.  So, I think it’s about time that the pro-lifers out there start facing up to the fact that a stupid little measure like making a fertilized egg a person is not going to stop a desperate girl from raking her uterus with a coathanger.  What pro-lifers REALLY want is something that is unattainable.  They want women to be mothers and they want them to *like* it.

That’s where this term “female bodied person” comes in.  I first heard the term “female bodied person” (FBP) on a segment of the Colbert Report the other day when Stephen interviewed an occupier from OWS who called herself “Ketchup”.  I had an “ah-hah!” moment.  That’s the concept that so many feminist have not been promoting.  Instead, they’ve been acting like their whole existence depended on Roe v. Wade.  No, non, nyet.  What we need to get across is that there are people, equal people and minds, encased in female bodies.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like my female body.  I like it very much.  And I don’t really want to change.  But it is just my body.  About a decade ago, my brother, ex, sister-in-law and I took some kind of pop psychology quiz that determined whether our minds were more male or female.  My sister-in-law was solidly female, the ex was male,  But I scored more on the male side of the spectrum than my brother did and he’s a masculine guy.  Pop psych or not, I think it is facet of our personalities that tends to get obscured by the bodies we wear.  What was funny to me was when I finally showed up in Denver for the convention and people met me in person, a lot of them were surprised that I looked like a girl.  They didn’t exactly say it that way but I knew what they meant.  I don’t write like one so maybe I wouldn’t look like one.

Does it matter if you look like a girl when it comes to employment?  It shouldn’t but we have some evidence that it does.  It used to be that orchestras would hire predominantly male musicians.  Women were thought not to possess that certain technical or artistic ability as men.  In the past two decades, more and more orchestras are hiring based on a blind audition.  In this case, the applicants for a seat in an orchestra audition behind a screen and the seat goes to the best musician based on music.  In the year 2000, the number of women in orchestras had jumped from 10% to 35% as a result of blind auditions.

So, if we know that physical appearance can affect one’s career prospects, can we apply the concept of the blind audition to the workforce in general?  An orchestra is probably an easy case.  Most differences in employment opportunities based on gender are not so clearly detectable as they are in an orchestra, or maybe even a restaurant.  Most ways in which employers discriminate against women are very subtle and the managers themselves may not even be aware that they are doing it.  Even a manager who feels himself to value equality may be affecting his female employees’ career prospects and salaries.  We have seen how the Obama administration does it quite openly and unapologetically by supporting an Old Boys’ Club and by cultivating younger men, allowing them to steal projects from women and present more frequently at meetings.  They also socialize more with the powerbrokers.  We can also see this happening in the left blogosphere where the bloggers who have moved on to steady jobs in the media have been guys.  Very few female bloggers have made this transition.

We may not be able to do much about the blogosphere but in the average workplace, there are ways to measure virtually anything from where people sit to how much desk space they have to how much access they have to the power centers to how many times their emails are answered and responded to.  If there are discrepancies in salaries and promotions, quantifying the parameters of the work environment should lead to some answers as to why these discrepancies develop.  Returning to my new favorite country, Finland, we can find a government program that does just this kind of study.  It’s called Gender Glasses.   The goal of a program like gender glasses should be to detect the factors and behaviors that lead to treating people based on the body they’re in and not the persons they are.

Of course, the United States has a long way to go to get to the stage where a program using measurement and statistics can be used to eliminate gender based differences in the work place.  Before we get to that, we have to agree that women are more than just the bodies they inhabit and that biology isn’t destiny.  And getting rid of Roe v. Wade, even for those of us who are pro-choice, is something we need to consider.  We need to take the focus off our bodies and put it back on our minds.  Like I said before, abortion is not going away, no matter what some bible thumping Mississippian thinks or even what some Catholic senator thinks.  All that’s going to happen is more people will be forced to travel or do it themselves.  But once the Roe issue is out of the way, we can get back to the issue of equality.  Equality has been stalled for four decades while the right tried to force us into motherhood based on our body parts.  If Senator Casey is serious about discovering why there is a gender wage gap, maybe he needs to start by examining his own attitudes towards “female bodied people”.

Postscript:  I notice that Digby has written something tangential to this about blogging while female.  And while I understand that women are conditioned to “feel” it when someone insults them, I see no reason why Digby, talented writer that she is, should waste even one nanosecond of sleeptime turning over any mean spirited insult in her head.  Here are my few words of wisdom to female bloggers: People insult you because they know it hurts and they want you to feel badly.  But the truth is that they don’t know you and even if they occasionally hit the mark, so what?  The internet is the great equalizer.  Unlike the real world, when someone says something nasty to you in cyberspace, you have the time to whip up a devastating response.  And you should use it.  Your blog is your own personal space.  No one can chase you from it.  You can say whatever you want and make whatever rules you like and there’s not a damn thing that the rude commenter can do about it.  You can banish people and never have to worry about accusations of censorship.  It’s a big blogosphere out there.

Finally, no matter what they say to you, they are only little black pixels on a screen.  They cannot hurt you.   With a click of a mouse, they are gone forever.

Real Life Stuff

Ayayayay!  Woke up about 15 minutes later than I planned.  Have to actually *be* somewhere this morning.  So, this is going to be short.

If there are any intrepid reporters out there who want to see what’s going on in the drug industry, check out the Drug Discovery Day activities at the CoRe building at Rutgers University.  There will be 50 companies and recruiters available.  You can be depressed directly or you could network and be depressed.  Choices, Choices!  Actually, I wanted to go to this but I have another event that might be more interesting, but we’ll see.

On the MF Global front, there were signs and implications a few months ago that something was up.  Enough signs that the White House was aware of it, albeit it on the late side.  Gary Gensling, former Clinton advisor and now head of the CTFC, became concerned last Thursday that MF Global was comingling is monies.  This turned out to be true.  The whole article has the feel of people trying to patch together a timeline so no one looks totally awful.

It’s not Monday but I still feel manic.