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Monday, October 13th 2008

9:54 PM

APS Report on Women and Minorities at Fermi

 The report on the visit that the APS made to Fermilab back in May is now available. You can read the entire report here. They state that Fermi is hostile to women (not a news flash to women - or anyone who reads my blog, or Absinthe or Wake Up Physics) and under represented in women and minorities. Didn't Absinthe point this out?

Both Absinthe and Wake Up APS Physics have posted entries about this report. You will probably recall they both have Civil Rights cases pending.

Here are some of my favorite portions of the report, with the best parts underlined. My comments are bolded.

Site Visit to Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) by the
Committee on the Status of Women in Physics
and the Committee on Minorities in Physics
of the American Physical Society
Introduction and Background.
The Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP) and the Committee on Minorities (COM) of the American Physical Society (APS) jointly organized and conducted a site visit to Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) at the request of the Laboratory Director, Piermaria Oddone. The purpose of the visit was to assess the Laboratory's climate for women and minorities in physics and closely related fields, and to provide advice to the Laboratory's leadership on how to improve inclusiveness. The visit was recommended in 2007 by the FNAL Committee on Hiring and Retention of Scientific Staff. The visit was held on May 20-21, 2008. Due to the serious funding cuts experienced by FNAL this fiscal year, furloughs were in place and layoffs were expected to be announced shortly—a situation likely to negatively affect the climate in any organization.  If you recall there were no layoffs. It seems that Fermi cries ‘wolf’ each year about their funding - wringing their hands about layoffs and yet there never are any layoffs…..

During the visit, the team met with groups consisting of women scientists, associate scientists, engineers, post-doctoral fellows; minority scientists, associate scientists, engineers, and post-doctoral fellows; women graduate students and graduate students in general; collaboration spokespersons, laboratory management, division managers, fellowship selection committee chairpersons, and others. Individuals, with the possible exception of the collaboration spokespersons, division managers, and laboratory management, self-selected to attend the sessions. If you recall previous posts by Absinthe and me, those who wished to speak with this committee, first had to notify HR/EEO of their intention to do so, and then they were questioned as to what they intended to say. I can pretty much guarantee that any women who valued her job would not risk meeting with this committee because I can guarantee that if their supervisor found out, they would be marked for retaliation for ‘outing’ their good ole boy mentality...
Status and Demographics
FNAL is the flagship American laboratory for high energy physics research. … Among the 367 physicists, associate scientists, and research associates on the FNAL staff on 12/31/2007 are 43 females (12%) and 70 minorities (19%), of whom only 15 (4%) are non-Asian. … FNAL certainly lags comparable institutions and higher education in its demographics today. We would like to stress that this slow growth demonstrates the need to do new things to achieve the goal of having a significant number of researchers who are minorities (and to increase the representation of women).

we also heard directly (or via private communications after the visit) of several situations that had been poorly resolved. Gee, you think the lawsuits would be a case of ‘poorly resolved’? While during a time that people are being laid off and furloughed the loss of people who “voluntarily” leave the field may seem less of a concern, we believe that it is important to note that the skills of the people leaving, in some cases, may have been more valuable than those of some people who are staying. Yeah, but we can’t get rid of our ‘good ole boys’ – even if they don’t do anything, but boy, here is a chance to get rid of some of those trouble making ‘wimmin’.
the laboratory management should establish and ultimately enforce a code of expected behavior for all participants in its mission – whether users or employees. If you recall one of the things that happened to Absinthe was that Fermi refused to ‘get involved’ when her supervisor was violating her rights because Absinthe and her supervisor were users, not directly employees.

FNAL supervisors, department heads, division directors, and collaboration co-spokespersons wield a lot of power. They are encouraged and allowed to pursue their organization's goal with considerable freedom and flexibility, and little to no management training or accountability for anything except technical results. This is exactly what goes on. There is blatant disregard for employees safety and civil rights in the ‘name of physics’. They have no concern for anything else. I have heard this over and over. A supervisor can do what ever he wants to any employee (including illegal things) as long as they keep the ‘machine’ running. One of the most blatant abusers of this policy rose thru ranks just for this very reason. This situation has created a significant range of climates in different workgroups: some are perceived as being welcoming, supportive, and wonderful. Others are perceived as being demanding, difficult on a personal level, and even abusive. The Laboratory and its people would benefit from upgrading the difficult work group environments to an acceptable level where respect, civility, and appreciation of differences are the norm. This is impossible, these people are too entrenched, too protected by those higher up. They  would have to do some housecleaning, which will never happen. These people have to die or retire.
While flexibility can be very empowering and enabling of success, ignorance and confusion is the opposite, and flexibility wielded by supervisors and managers arbitrarily or with bias can lead to a problematic climate for women and minorities. They hit the nail on the head! Home run! Read some of my previous posts and my website for some prime examples of these managers.

If you read the first part of the report, Fermi and specifically the director, Oddone, requested the visit. I am not sure why they did so. I suspect they expected very different results. I also think they felt pressure to get an independent 'nice' review after Absinthe's report about the inequities of women at Fermi was published in Nature. Oddone is relatively new. He was not director when I was there. He probably is aware of my case as well as Absinthe case. (Someone from his office regularly logs onto my website and blog. I know Fermi employees also visit Absinthe and Wake Up APS as well) The APS report perfectly reports the exact situation that happened to both Absinthe and me. This indicates that it is still going on - and Absinthe and I have been gone more than 4 years.

I did read Oddone's comments about the report. He seemed to be rallying the troops, inspiring their 'can-do' mentality....but I think this may have all been a show. I have spoken with some employees to see if they have heard anything - comments, discussion, any new programs or training being put in place. Of course they have all these policies on paper, but you can see by reading the report, that many employees have no idea what the policies are. Better yet, they allow their managers to pretty much do whatever they want and there are no sanctions for violations of any policy. I find it highly unlikely that this director will vigorously pursue implementation of any new policy and follow thru. It would be very interesting if he would invite APS to make a return visit in about a year to see if there was  any progress.

Here is part of the post from Wake Up Physics on the report:

"Dr. Oddone should make amends to Ms. Kay Weber now that this report confirms what happened to her. Will he? Because his continued funneling of money to lawyers to fight her appeal now looks mean spirited, if not hypocritical."

I'm not holding my breath. The report confirms the claims I have made in my case. I doubt Fermi will decide to cut their losses and offer me a reasonable settlement. A trial will only publically confirm exatly what this report is saying. I look forward to presenting many employees who can testify to this kind of environment.

My next few posts will be a 'refresher' of the evidence I have that supports the conclusions from this report as well as some moral and ethical questions....stay tuned
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