August 18, 2005
US women still face bias in science-report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Women trying to make it as
scientists face bias, hostility and a lack of respect that all
combine to hold them back, a team of researchers reported on
These barriers both frighten women away from scientific
careers and block the women who try to succeed, the researchers
report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
"There is still a lot of covert and overt hostility toward
women," said Jo Handelsman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the
"Some of it is outright illegal behavior, but most of it is
subtle. It makes women feel undervalued and not respected."
The experts included former Health and Human Services
Secretary Donna Shalala, now the president of Miami University;
the chancellors of Syracuse University and the University of
California at Santa Cruz and the provost of the University of
California at Davis.
They said they found "no convincing evidence that women's
representation in science is limited by innate ability."
They cited surveys that found women in academic science
complained of "hostility from colleagues and a chilly campus
climate." Men do not notice it, they added.
Even people who believe they are not biased often are,
unconsciously, the report added. And universities make it
difficult to balance family and work.
"While we as a nation have made considerable progress in
attracting women into most science and engineering fields, we
still see fewer women at the full professor and academic
leadership levels than we would expect given the pool of women
with doctorates," said Alice Hogan, director of the National
Science Foundation's ADVANCE Program. The program was developed
to analyze the impact of efforts to advance women in science.
"After investing in creating this pool of highly trained
talent, we should see a high rate of return -- productive,
creative and respected teachers and researchers attracting more
students into fields that might have seemed closed to them
given the traditional profile of science and engineering
Conscious efforts to recruit women should help, as should
awareness programs, the group said.