Keeping Women in Science and in Computing

January 10, 2011 at 10:23 am 2 comments

Last time I got a chance to talk to Lucy Sanders (CEO of NCWIT, and someone you definitely should chat with if you ever get the chance — one of those people that you meet and then wish she’d run for President), she spoke to the same issues as this article, but focused on women in Computing.  She said that we lose a huge percentage of the women from the computing industry after they graduate and get a job.  Then, for a variety of reasons (from starting families, to disillusionment with corporate culture), they leave, and relatively few ever return.  If we care about having more women in Computing (e.g., to keep a diverse range of perspectives in the design of our technology), this is a huge problem — how do we keep women in the computing industry, and if they leave, how do we help them to return?

More women are obtaining Ph.D.’s in science than ever before, but those women — largely because of pressures from having a family — are far more likely than their male counterparts to “leak” out of the research science pipeline before obtaining tenure at a college or university.

That’s the conclusion of a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who warned that the loss of these scientists — together with the increased research capabilities of Asian and European countries — may threaten America’s pre-eminence in science.

The study, “Keeping Women in the Science Pipeline,” found that women who are married with young children are 35 percent less likely to enter a tenure-track position after receiving a Ph.D. in science than are married men with young children and Ph.D.’s in science. Not only that, the married women with young children are 28 percent less likely than women without children to achieve tenure in the sciences.

Moreover, women Ph.D.’s with young children are 27 percent less likely than men with children to receive tenure after entering a tenure-track job in the sciences. The report notes that single women without young children are roughly as successful as married men with children in attaining tenure-track jobs.

via Trying to Women in Science on a Tenure Track – NYTimes.com.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jake Seliger  |  January 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    More women are obtaining Ph.D.’s in science than ever before, but those women — largely because of pressures from having a family — are far more likely than their male counterparts to “leak” out of the research science pipeline before obtaining tenure at a college or university.

    Although I don’t disagree with everything he says, I’m reminded of Philip Greenspun’s Women in Science, where he points out that “Adjusted for IQ, quantitative skills, and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States.” So it might be logical to “leak” from the research pipeline, given how disruptive an academic life can be (with its multiple moves), the paucity of tenure-track jobs, and the fact that, even if one lands a tenure-track job, one still might be denied tenure.

    Given those kinds of choices, should it be much of a surprise that women do the math and decide not to continue? Based on what I’ve observed from friends in grad school, a lot of people regret starting PhDs and are disenchanted with the job prospects when they’re done. If they have other options, they will logically take them.

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