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Are Women Finally Free From Discrimination in Scientific Careers?

It’s hard to dispute that there are some professions that appear more welcoming to women than others.  Is science one of them?  That was the question posed by a new review conducted by Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams.

The review focused on the so called GEEMP subjects of engineering, economics, computer science, maths, geoscience and the physical sciences.  It makes the bold claim that there are fewer obstacles in place for women striving to further their career in those subjects than was previously the case.

This finding was based upon statistics revealing that both the graduate entry rate into PhD programs and the subsequent movement from that PhD into the assistant professor/lecturer position was broadly the same for both men and women.  The paper went on to say that women comprised around 30 percent of the assistant professorship posts, and whilst rates higher up the career ladder were lower, the authors claim this is largely down to legacy barriers.  For new entrants into the field, they claim that the chances of women are just as strong as for their male peers.

The paper goes on to suggest that women are in fact typically invited to interviews for such positions at a higher rate than would be expected by their ratio in the general applicant pool.  All of which seems to suggest that hiring practices in academia are actually pretty fair, which is certainly a stark contrast to the general body of research thus far on this topic.

The researchers suggest that there is a lack of discrimination in the GEEMP disciplines because it is so meritocratic.  When exceptional candidates present themselves, it’s usually so obvious that they are exceptional that to discriminate would be madness.  They believe that only when there is some doubt over the validity of a candidate does discrimination have a chance to flourish.

Salary equality

To continue the equality theme, the report concludes that pay levels amongst academics is also pretty equitable.  They reveal that there is general parity in pay between genders, although there remain slight differences when you get up to full professorship roles, which they believe could be down to a number of factors, be that negotiation skills, length of tenure, or of course, discrimination.

Publication equality

Another potential area for discrimination is in the frequency of publication between the genders.  It was revealed that men still tend to publish more frequently than women, although this gap is closing.  One theory for why this is so suggests that women academics are spending more time providing mentoring and support roles, thus leaving them less time to publish research.  When asked why this is, many female academics reveal an enjoyment of this role, despite its lower status in relation to research itself.

So, is the paper conclusive proof that academia, or at least a part of it, is free from discrimination?  Quite possibly.  Do any of the readers out there have first hand experience of these fields?  Did you experience any hurdles to your career on account of your gender?

Let us know in the comments below.


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