Ambitious women scientists held back
Despite being more ambitious than their male colleagues, women still occupy only a minority of key senior positions in UK academic science. This is one of the main findings from researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, following a survey of 6500 scientists working in 40 UK universities and public research institutes.
The survey was conducted under the aegis of the Athena Project, an initiative supported by a range of professional scientific bodies, including the RSC, to advance and promote the careers of women in science. The preliminary findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, US.
The researchers discovered that 36 per cent of female senior lecturers have ambitions to become a member of senior management, compared with 29 per cent of male senior lecturers. And 68 per cent of female professors wish to become head of a research group, compared with 49 per cent of their male counterparts. However, the data show that a higher proportion of men than women actually go on to key, high profile roles and responsibilities.
Part of the problem seems to be that women are often not encouraged to advance their careers in science.
The researchers found that less than 50 per cent of women scientists aged 35-50 felt that they were encouraged to develop their CVs or given the opportunity to serve on important departmental committees. Many women scientists report that their contributions are undervalued by colleagues.
'Those women professors who are already doing well are clearly far more driven than the men they work alongside and this may be part of why they are already doing well,' comments Athena programme manager Caroline Fox.
'But the sad fact is that those further down the scale are still not rising to more senior positions with the same frequency as men, despite a clear desire to do so.'