Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Women Scientists And Engineers Face Delicate Balancing Act

Date:
July 16, 1998
Source:
University Of Florida
Summary:
Americans stand to lose some of their most talented women scientists and engineers because of the difficulties of juggling career and family responsibilities, a new nationwide study by the University of Florida suggests.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Americans stand to lose some of their most talented women scientists and engineers because of the difficulties of juggling career and family responsibilities, a new nationwide study by the University of Florida suggests.

A survey of 68 women scientists who received research grants from a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) program last year showed that 62 percent considered balancing work and family responsibilities the biggest challenge they face, said Sue Rosser, director of UF's Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research.

That women at the pinnacles of their careers have difficulty combining work and family is discouraging to bright young women contemplating futures in science or engineering and looking for female role models who successfully manage both, Rosser said.

"The notion that a scientist or engineer is somehow perceived very much as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week occupation is difficult for women, or men, also wanting to have other things in their lives," Rosser said.

At colleges and universities, one of the biggest problems for women scientists and engineers is conflicts between tenure and their biological clocks, said Rosser, who is presenting her findings to the NSF July 16 in Montreal. By the time professors complete graduate school, obtain academic positions and finish the six-or seven-year tenure process, according to the traditional timetable, they are in their late 30s, near the end of a woman's childbearing years, she said.

In a famous 1980s study tracking Illinois high school valedictorians, the incompatibility of science and engineering with family life was the most frequent answer the women gave as college freshmen for dropping out of these fields in larger numbers than men, even though their grades were better, Rosser said.

"There are plenty of data showing that women who drop out of science in colleges and universities are not doing so because they have less ability," she said. "The women who enter these programs actually have somewhat higher grades and test scores than men. They wonder whether becoming a scientist or engineer is being compatible with having a relationship or family."

Academic institutions and grant agencies could remedy the tenure and biological clock conflict with financially rewarding policies allowing greater flexibility, Rosser said.

For example, the Sloan Foundation has a new program matching funding to institutions that attempt innovative polices to solve the tenure/biological clock dilemma and permit women to maintain their research after giving birth, she said.

"In part, family responsibilities remain challenging because employing institutions continue to operate as though a full-time caretaker is available at home to provide all back-up necessary to support the participation and performance of the employee," agreed Mary Frank Fox, a sociology professor at Atlanta's Georgia Institute of Technology. "This 'back-up' is decreasingly available to men -- and it is virtually absent for women."

Balancing committee responsibilities with research and teaching -- time management -- was the second most frequent concern identified by women scientists and engineers in the UF study (24 percent). Women often get more requests than men to serve on committees because their numbers are so few and people want female representation, Rosser said.

Other challenges they mentioned were isolation as a result of low numbers of women (24 percent); gaining credibility and respectability from peers and administrators (22 percent); and balancing their spouse's career with their own (20 percent).

"Some described the laboratory climate as a hostile environment with a boys' club atmosphere, where women were seen as a problem, an anomaly or deviant," Rosser said. "In particular, computer labs were frequently seen as dominated by macho cliques or 'computer jocks,' with their culture and behavior tending to intimidate and turn off most female and even some male students."

Attracting more women to science might not only improve the working environment, but eliminate research biases, such as those which have occurred in drug trials from having drugs tested only on men, Rosser said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Florida. "Women Scientists And Engineers Face Delicate Balancing Act." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980716075344.htm>.
University Of Florida. (1998, July 16). Women Scientists And Engineers Face Delicate Balancing Act. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980716075344.htm
University Of Florida. "Women Scientists And Engineers Face Delicate Balancing Act." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/07/980716075344.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Science News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Apple iPhone 6 Screen Hits Snag Ahead of Launch

Apple iPhone 6 Screen Hits Snag Ahead of Launch

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Reuters has learned Apple is scrambling to get enough screens ready for the iPhone 6. Sources say it's unclear whether this could delay the launch. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is It a Plane? No, It's a Hoverbike

Is It a Plane? No, It's a Hoverbike

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) UK-based Malloy Aeronautics is preparing to test a manned quadcopter capable of out-manouvering a helicopter and presenting a new paradigm for aerial vehicles. A 1/3-sized scale model is already gaining popularity with drone enthusiasts around the world, with the full-sized manned model expected to take flight in the near future. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins