The Lack of Women in Science Leadership

May 23, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth in Outsourcing Trends |

Women have made significant strides in science this past century.  We now make up a majority of PhD graduates in scientific disciplines, and have increased representation in STEM-related fields.

And yet, women remain under-represented in positions of scientific leadership.  Women comprise a minority of tenured professorships in STEM fields, receiving only 25% of NIH-sponsored faculty awards. A disproportionate share of women are “dropping out” of academic careers before even attaining tenure, missing out on faculty roles of significant contribution.

The lack of women can be traced to a litany of issues of institutional or societal origin, though none were so prominent in my experience as the lack of support for women in maternal care. As a postdoctoral scholar myself, I noticed many of my female colleagues dropping out of a tenure track due to the high demands of combined lab work and childcare.

A recent report from cites numerous data points to similar effect. Faculty workweeks average 50 hours per week, and yet women with children report over 100 hours per week in combined activity. Worsening matters is that tenure-track jobs often overlap with a woman’s reproductive years, and over 40% of universities offer ad hoc or no paid leave for maternity care.  Women are inevitably pushed to choose between a career in the lab vs. at home.

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