News & Events

Women in Science: Negotiating a Successful Academic Career

November 1, 2011 | Faculty, Postdoctoral Development, Vice Chancellor for Research

Pictured from left to right: Ruth Stark, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Acting Dean of Science, CCNY; Mary Kern, Associate Professor of Management, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College; Pam Silverblatt, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations; Dongming Cai, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

On September 22, 2011 the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research held a roundtable discussion as part of its ongoing Women in Science programming. The event brought together notable women scholars and administrators from across CUNY to address the topic of Negotiating a Successful Academic Career.

In honor of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Vice Chancellor Gillian Small recognized the postdocs in the audience and emphasized that negotiating skills are particularly pertinent to postdoctoral researchers, senior doctoral students, and junior faculty as they advance through their careers.

Vice Chancellor Gillian Small started out the program by discussing the remarkable accomplishments and continuing challenges of women in science.  Although greater numbers of women are employed in STEM departments at colleges and universities, salary differences and other institutional inequities between men and women persist, in part, because women don’t negotiate. A number of studies have found that women in general tend to be less likely to initiate negotiations, more apprehensive about the negotiating process, and more skeptical about their own worth.[1]

The keynote speaker, Dr. Maribel Vazquez gave a presentation that detailed the choices and negotiating opportunities she experienced over the course of her career: as a prospective undergraduate at Cornell; as a microfabrication engineer with Intel Corporation; as a Master’s and Doctoral student at MIT; and finally as a new hire in the Mechanical Engineering department and founding member of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at CCNY.  Dr. Vazquez also gave an overview of her research that studies cell migration in the brain using micro and nanotechnology.

The roundtable participants included: Dongming Cai, a CUNY doctoral alumna and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Pam Silverblatt, the CUNY Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations; Mary Kern, an Associate Professor of Management at Baruch College, and Ruth Stark, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and the Acting Dean of Science at CCNY.

Dr. Kern, who teaches classes in negotiation and team management at Baruch, outlined a general strategic model for approaching any negotiating situation.  Dr. Cai discussed her experiences negotiating her employment packages, both as a postdoctoral researcher and as a prospective faculty member. Ms. Silverblatt shared a wealth of tips and techniques that she cultivated as the chief negotiator with CUNY’s faculty and staff unions and in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations. Dr. Stark spoke about the dynamics of negotiating a start-up package from an administrator’s perspective.


[1] Babcock, Linda and Sara Laschever. 2003. Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Princeton: Princeton University Press.