Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why do so many women leave biology?

Date:
December 11, 2012
Source:
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Summary:
The retention rate of women in the biological sciences, both in the United States and Canada, is lower than would be expected from the number of female doctoral students who graduated within the last decade, and lower than it is in medicine. Early-career competition for positions in biology is the likely explanation, as it is especially unattractive for women with children. Training fewer biologists would alleviate this pressure and may lead to relatively more women staying in scientific careers.

One common idea about why there are fewer women professors in the sciences than men is that women are less willing to work the long hours needed to succeed. Writing in the January Issue of BioScience, Shelley Adamo of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, rejects this argument. She points out that women physicians work longer hours than most scientists, under arguably more stressful conditions, but that this does not deter women from entering medicine.

Related Articles


Why, then, do women leave the academic track in biology at higher rates than they leave the medical profession? Adamo blames the difference in the timing of the most acute period of competition in the two careers. In biology, the most intense competition is for the first faculty position. This typically occurs when women are in their early 30's. Biologists have little financial and institutional support for balancing family and career during this stressful time. Women with children find this pressure particularly difficult, and it appears to be getting worse, because of a decrease in available academic positions. Strong career competition in medicine, in contrast, occurs earlier, before most women have started families.

Once women are in a faculty position in biology in Canada, they gain tenure at the same rate as men. Canadian universities, unlike US ones, have mandated maternity leave for women faculty and often allow deferral of tenure. In addition, the main Canadian agency supporting biology takes maternity leave into account when assessing productivity. Consequently, retention of women who have achieved tenure-track positions in biology is better than in the United States.

Adamo points out that if both countries decreased the number of graduate biology student positions, making competition for a biology career occur earlier, this would likely make access to academic positions easier later, and so increase the proportion of women choosing a scientific career. But bringing about such a change -- for example, by providing fewer but better-funded graduate scholarships -- would require a coordinated response involving granting agencies, universities, and individual professors.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Biological Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shelly Adamo. Attrition of Women in the Biological Sciences: Workload, Motherhood and Other Explanations Revisited. BioScience, 2012 (in press) DOI: 10.1525/bio.2013.63.1.9

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Why do so many women leave biology?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121211083214.htm>.
American Institute of Biological Sciences. (2012, December 11). Why do so many women leave biology?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121211083214.htm
American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Why do so many women leave biology?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121211083214.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) T-Mobile and the FCC have reached an agreement requiring the company to alert customers when it throttles their data speeds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A Symantec white paper reveals details about Regin, a spying malware of unusual complexity which is believed to be state-sponsored. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

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