Frances Conley, Walking Out on the Boys
December 30, 2011
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I read straight through this book last night. It’s a sort of memoir by Frances Conley, a tenured professor of neurosurgery at Stanford who resigned in the early 90’s because of a hostile work environment and entrenched sexism in academic medicine. It’s a fascinating read not only because of her experiences but also the twists and turns in academic politics. By many measures and by her own admission, Conley had great success and luck in her career. She had a very successful marriage and home life. Coming from an academically successful and high achieving family, she attended some of the best schools, obtained excellent surgical training, had success in her lab research and in her clinical cases, and was beginning to develop strong recognition in the wider, international research and medical community. However, she ran up against problems of entrenched sexism and in surgery and medicine that she decided she could no longer tolerate, and resigned in protest over activities in her own academic department. By her own description, she was somewhat swept up into a much larger set of issues on sexism in sexual harassment in medicine at the time, and became a role model, spokesperson, and leader for the rights of women in healthcare.
Again, a very interesting story even for just the details of the political intrigues and legal issues in the hierarchical academic-medical-industrial complex.