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Boys in Boots

Ursula Hegeli, ballet mistress at the Royal Ballet, does an educational series on the history of ballet.  In one of her latest episodes, she takes us way back to the court of Louis XIV, The Sun King.  It turns out that the king had quite a turn out.  I always thought that the turn out was part of the foundation of ballet because the whole body should be “open”.  But it turns out (no pun intended) that the turn out came as a practical solution to a totally different problem.  Take a look:

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Men do not mentor women. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

If a man is in a managerial position and he’s demanding, he’s headed for the corner office.  If a woman is demanding, she’s “hard to deal with”.

This is in reference to the recent firing of Jill Abramson to be replaced by her deputy editor Dean Baquet.

This article in the New Yorker is CHOCKFULL TO THE BRIM with every cliched gender based reason why the woman had to go that I have ever seen.  What’s really astonishing is that the male underling complains to the publisher at dinner about his woman boss when it was that very woman boss who set him up for the dinner.  Why am I not surprised?  “Awww, she made a decision without consulting you?  What a meany.  Well, this is the last straw.  She’s got to go.  Hey, why don’t YOU take her job?”

Now, I have heard a lot of nice things about Dean Baquet.  He’s a nice manager.  He’s unfailingly polite.  Everybody likes him.  That sounds like it’s in contrast to Abramson who was probably just acting like an editor in her position.  You would have thought that the 8 Pulitzers her paper has won since her tenure began would make a difference.  Nope.

Here’s the problem with women in a corporation.  Men act like adolescents who are dealing with their mothers.  Or girlfriends.  If she tries to get her work done and is assertive or needs to exercise authority, it is immediately seen as aggressive and she’s “hard to deal with” or “not a team player”.  If she backs off and speaks softly and is genial and friendly like Dean Baquet, “she’s not up to the job” or “too passive”.  Yeah, try swapping the two personalities.  Would Jill Abramson ever become executive editor at the New York Times if she had been “unfailingly polite”, “genial” and well-liked?  How about if Dean Baquet had been brusque and aggressive?

For every woman in power, there will always be a male in the group who will want her job and will use every gender stereotype to get her out of the way.  It’s extremely easy for guys to manipulate cultural stereotypes to shape perceptions and move into positions of power.  It’s extremely easy because no one stops it.  It’s not all about the money, although that’s very important.  It’s more about the lack of authority even if a woman is doing a good job.

I’ve seen it before.  Usually, it’s the woman who has to consult a career coach to make sure she is not offending any man with her unreasonable demands to get stuff done.  It never works.

That’s because it is the men who need the coaching.  Better yet, Sulzberger should have just told Baquet to STFU and do what he was hired to do.

Yeah, yeah, I’m dreaming.

The answer is money

And time.

This is another boring post on drug discovery but ignore it at your peril.

Derek Lowe has another nice post up about the discovery of new antibiotics.  Summary: it’s really hard.  But I think even Derek might be glossing over something that seems pretty obvious.  Discovering new antibiotics and getting over the rate limiting step of not finding anything new or effective for a long period of time is going to take a massive infusion of money.  That money is going to have to come from somewhere.  My recent conversation at a user group meeting resulted in shrugs from the participants.  We have no idea who is going to pick up the tab for the research, which we already know ahead of time is going to be massively expensive and fruitless for a long time.

But here’s the thing, if you don’t take the time (and money) to do it right, when will you have the time (and money) to do it over?  Do we need a new version of the plague to light a fire under the responsible parties to get this party started?  On the other hand, it was the plague that got the Renaissance started when it wiped out a lot of the naysayers that stood in the way of the experimentalists…

Yes, I know the low hanging fruit has been picked.  Yes, I know we need to educate the helicopter moms out there to stop dosing their kids with amoxicillin every time they get colds.  Yes, yes, yes, there are a million reasons why bacteria are hard to kill.  But the primary reason we are failing in drug discovery is the one we have been talking about for a while now.  The shareholders don’t want to spend money on it.  They’d rather look for get rich quick schemes.  Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of experienced American scientists who are vastly underemployed right now.

The next presidential candidates for 2016 better have policies to deal with this problem because the day of reckoning is fast approaching.