Women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

I am passionate about the issue of women and academia; well, generally in everything that has to do with higher education and publications. Here I found several different issues, on two different levels.

The first level has to do with women’s access to higher education, which I won’t go this time. The other level is more sophisticated, if I can use the expression, and includes two issues in particular:

  1. The first is why women don’t have access to full professor positions, which I wrote about obliquely in another post about self-citations; being the reason, in short, their publications in journals.
  2. And the other is why there are fewer women holding professorships in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is what I will discuss or reflect here (women academics on fire, the sciences on ice).

The other day I received a McKinsey article on women; articles that are almost always good and interesting. It was called ‘How to attract US women to the sciences’, and was saying that “compared with their counterparts elsewhere, American women shun STEM fields of knowledge”.

The reasoning i not simple: it is not that science appeals less to women, or that they make it worse than men, which is almost the opposite, at least in high school (Mckinsey, 2013); but that they are less interested in choosing these types of grades at college. In other words, in general, women are not attracted to STEM sciences as a career option, the place where they will spend the rest of their lives….

  • And going further, it is not that women are not interested at all, it is that the alternatives are better, at least in developed countries, such as business, nursing or law (academic) careers; which now have better or equal prestige and opportunities than that of the STEM areas.
  • Additionally, it appears that academic careers in STEM areas are less rewarding for women, at least in terms of publications, since female scientists often get less credit than a comparatively male researcher, even if their work is similar.

If this is really so, that STEM science careers in academia is not so attractive to women, what can be done? Should we do something? Even if women themselves are against it? It may also be that women are not fascinated by the idea of ​​being in an academic world in which their work is less valued, even by themselves, and this indeed can be changed.

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Women, Academia and Science: some facts and ideas

In general, I have interest about the issue of gender in today’s society, but I had not related it to the world of education and academia, so I’ve started to document myself. To begin with I found a couple of interesting ideas, both interrelated.

women and academia

The first one is the Matilda Effect, which says the women scientists often get less credit than a comparatively male researcher, even if their work is similar.

And the second idea is what it is suggested by some very interesting statistics about women and academia, referred to STEM fields of knowledge (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics):

  • Female students’ global share in higher education is 41% in natural sciences and 21% in engineering (UNESCO, 2010).
  • Women’s share of doctoral degrees in engineering and science:
    • Republic of Korea         16% – 44%
    • European Union           33% (overall)
    • USA                                  21% – 31%
    • Japan                              12% – 27%
  • 27% of researchers in STEM sciences are women (OCDE, 2008):
    • Argentina, 51%, has the highest proportion in the world of women researchers. Argentina is in fashion: A Pope, a Queen, a Soccer Star and Gender Friendly in Academia!
    • USA, 41%. 30% professors.
    • Europe, 34%
    • Brazil, 25%
    • Japan, 14%
  • Researcher, publications and patents women ratios (Naldi et al, 2005):
    • Spain:                36%, 27% y 11%
    • Italy:                   33%, 26% y 6%
    • France:              31%, 25% y 9%
    • Sweden:            31%, 18% y 5%
    • UK:                     28%, 16% y 6%
    • Germany:          24%, 14% y 4%

And this is in Higher Education, where most of it is funded by governments, which are supposed to take care of these gender questions…

Many solutions are proposed medium term, as making STEM education friendly to women or changing policies to increase women’s share in research (Schiebinger, 2010), but I wonder if web 3.0. tools for academics may be part of the solutions, helping to balance women’s familiar and academic life.

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