October 4, 2010

The Struggle for Women in Science


As scientist we all know that life is not always handed to you and that it took a lot of hard work to get us where we are today. With this said, as a Woman in Science it may be harder than you think! The L'Oreal USA, known to many as the leading beauty company, in partnership with The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling ,  recently had a Congressional Briefing on Issues Affecting Women in Science.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?  Well look at these results from newly-released survey of 1,300 female and male scientists, conducted by AAAS and commissioned by L'Oreal USA, on the barriers women encounter in pursuit of scientific careers. They conducted a survey research on male and female scientists who hold doctoral degrees and are registered users of Science online, including members of AAAS.

  • Female scientists face unique, gender-based barriers in career advancement:
    • 61 percent of female scientists who participated in the study have personally struggled balancing life and career
    • More than half of female respondents (52 percent) have experienced gender bias
    • More than one in three female scientists who participated in the survey (37 percent) faced barriers in having/raising children  
    • Half of all female respondents (50 percent) cited challenges with child care support as a major barrier for individuals working in the science field
  • Insurmountable barriers are driving female scientists from the field:
    • Nearly all women who participated in the survey (98 percent) know a female colleague who left the science field because she encountered barriers to her professional success
    • Balancing life and career and having/raising children were cited as the top two reasons why female colleagues left their science careers
    • Female respondents cited gender biases as the reason why female colleagues left the field almost twice as frequently as male colleagues (47 percent of females vs. 24 percent of males)
  • Female scientists are making significant personal sacrifices to achieve professional goals:
    • Females respondents were less likely to be married or in a long-term relationship than men (78 percent of females vs. 91 percent of males)
    • Female respondents were much less likely to have children than their male counterparts who participated in the survey (53 percent of females vs. 77 percent of males)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?  There are many barriers Woman in Science must face compared to their male counterpart as shown by these results. As a young woman in science I have to say these results are quite sad and depressing.

I do have to admit that 1) this fact is well known in the science field (as well as several other fields)  and 2) these types of surveys are opening scientist eyes to the barriers women currently face. A leading step is being taken by L'Oreal USA to try and change this and help Woman in Science pursue their research goals by creating a  L'Oreal USA's For Women in Science program, which provides grants for the advancement of women in science and aims to address the issues related to the underrepresentation of women in the science fields. L'Oreal is planning on hosting a ceremony to award $300,000 in L'Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship grants to five postdoctoral female scientists, providing them with the resources to continue their groundbreaking research. Since 2004, L'Oreal USA does have  a nice track record and has previously awarded more than $1 million in fellowship grants to 35 Fellows. Finally, Science and the L'Oreal Foundation created a Women in Science Booklet focusing on 16 women in five different areas of biology research.

 Final Thought::::Is this what I have to look forward to???? I hope not! My question is what are WE doing to change this?

What are your thoughts on Women in Science? Are there other groups/organizations that are also helping Women in Science?

Yours truly, Jess (Blog Manager)

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