Research ruled by men, many female scientists agree
Gender equality in scientific research has not been achieved yet, a survey co-funded by the European Commission suggests. The report appears in the scientific journal EMBO reports, which is published by Nature Publishing Group on behalf of the European Molecular Biology Organi...
Gender equality in scientific research has not been achieved yet, a survey co-funded by the European Commission suggests. The report appears in the scientific journal EMBO reports, which is published by Nature Publishing Group on behalf of the European Molecular Biology Organization.
The 'Gender and science' survey is based on data collected through a multiple choice online questionnaire from the EADGENE Network of Excellence and the SABRE project. 143 subjects participated in the survey.
The data suggest that while the number of women in research has increased in recent years, they are still found more frequently in some fields than others. Moreover, they receive lower salaries and are less likely to obtain a permanent contract or to climb the career ladder to more influential positions: The data show that 83.6% of men were employed on a permanent basis whereas only 56% of women were.
As it turns out, the discrimination women are facing is twofold, horizontal as well as vertical: On the one hand, their numbers are greater in fields such as biology and medicine while being under-represented in other sectors of research. On the other hand, the so-called glass ceiling prevents many female scientists from working their way up beyond a certain level, where most positions are occupied by men. This is despite the fact that the ratio of women to men is fairly balanced at the beginning of their scientific career.
The reasons for the disparity later in professional life are a little less clear, the survey finds. However, male researchers seem to perceive gender inequalities differently from their female colleagues: 76.6% of women agree that 'research is ruled by men', but only 47.3% of men judge the situation in the same way.
What is more, 75% of female respondents as opposed to 33% of their male counterparts felt that administrative and subordinate tasks were more readily assigned to women. Meanwhile, 57.4% of women believed that female researchers lacked the competitive behaviour required to reach more important positions. Only 27.3% of male interviewees agreed.
'The results confirm that many women participate more actively at the beginning of their scientific career, with their work ambitions reduced after having children,' says Simona Palermo, researcher at the Pagano de Lodi Technology Park in Italy. 'Even today, seven out of ten female researchers and six out of ten men believe that it is very difficult combining a career in science with looking after children.'
Both EADGENE ('European animal disease genomics network of excellence for animal health and food safety') network and the SABRE ('Cutting edge genomics for sustainable animal breeding') project are funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
EADGENE as well as SABRE meet and exceed the 40% target quota of women participants, as recommended by the European Commission. Still, even in those exemplary projects, there are less women among experienced scientists than among early-stage researchers, the survey finds. In order to counterbalance this effect, the two projects have - among other things - introduced a mentoring programme to fit the needs and expectations of female scientists. Moreover, they organised an event to highlight the obstacles that still hamper women's career progress in science.