How Not To Recruit Women Scientists: Send Them E-mails That Say, “I honestly recommend you to take one of these [other offers] rather than plunge into the hot pan.”

And don’t send e-mails that say, “Alla, as you are very aware, two competing labs in the same building is something we should avoid by all means. Some people who are promoting your arrival here are ignoring this basic principle, but I don’t believe that they are doing a service to you. In summary, I am sorry, but I have to say to you that at present and under the present circumstances, I do not feel comfortable at all to have you here as a junior faculty colleague.”

According to this Boston Globe article:

Forty minutes after MIT’s biology department voted to offer a job to a young neuroscientist, Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa sent the woman an e-mail warning that her arrival at the university would create serious problems because she would be competing directly with him.

“I am sorry . . . I do not feel comfortable at all to have you here as a junior faculty colleague,” Tonegawa wrote to Alla Karpova , a postdoctoral fellow in her late 20s, who subsequently turned down MIT’s offer and took a job in a Virginia lab.

In e-mails obtained by the Globe, Tonegawa strongly counseled Karpova not to accept the job, suggesting that professors trying to recruit her were misleading her into thinking that MIT could provide her a supportive atmosphere.

The e-mails also show that Karpova made repeated efforts to persuade the neuroscientist to give his blessing to her coming to MIT. She even promised to avoid research in which he was interested.

The e-mail dialogue is key evidence that a committee, created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Susan Hockfield, will examine in response to allegations from colleagues that Tonegawa bullied Karpova. In academia, even professors who oppose a hiring generally are expected to fall in line with the decision once it had been made. The committee will have to address whether Tonegawa violated the standard.

The case may be the biggest challenge that Hockfield, also a neuroscientist, has faced since she took office in December 2004. She has declined to comment.

If the accusations are deemed true, Hockfield will face the task of standing up to one of MIT’s greatest luminaries, someone who brings in tens of millions of dollars of research funding. …

The entire article is here. A transcript of the referenced e-mails is embedded within the linked article.

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