Where are the Senior Female Scientists

Posted on December 1, 2008  Comments (0)

Why Are Senior Female Scientists So Heavily Outnumbered by Men? by Anna Kushnir

There is some funny math in the world of academic science. Take my graduate school for example: My class was made up of eight people — seven women and one man, or 7 to 1. He was Snow White and we were the seven dwarves — each with a remarkably appropriate nickname. I was Grumpy, should you be curious to know.

Snow White and at least four of the dwarves have continued on to postdoctoral research jobs. That is a 4 to 3 ratio of women who went on to do a post-doc to those that chose alternate career paths.

Everything is adding up so far, right? Lots of women are around. Lots of science is being done. All is well. The next set of numbers is slightly puzzling, however. That is the ratio of female to male professors in our department, at a well-respected academic institution, is 48 to 7 men to women.

The proportion of female faculty in her department, 14 percent, is exactly equal to the overall average from the top fifty US chemistry departments.

From her blog: Lab Life: I thought I wanted to be “normal”

The majority of researchers, in my experience, think that stress level, pressure, and time commitments all drop by a factor of ten the moment you step outside of the chemical-smeared walls of a lab. I have come to realize that’s a misconception. It’s just not true. I think that whenever one wants a career instead of a job, time, stress, pressure, and worry are the price to pay.

If all I wanted was a job with a steady income, I am pretty sure I could get it. I would be well-rested and calm, but would I be happy? Would I be alright staying put where I am, with nothing pushing me to reach the next step or rise to the next level? I don’t think so.

I have heard the words ‘ambition’ and ‘drive’ described as derogatory, when applied to people. Unfortunately, I think those are apt words to describe me (in addition to ‘tired’ and ‘often occasionally cranky’). It was an important thing for me to understand about myself and come to terms with. It’s just who I am.

Related: A Decade of Progress for Women in ScienceWomen Working in Scienceposts on scientists at workWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and Mathscience internships

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