The underrepresentation of women in science has received significant attention. However, there have been few studies in which longitudinal data were used to assess changes over time. In a paper recently published in the journal BioScience, Richard B. Primack, professor of biology at Boston University; Krista L. McGuire, assistant professor of biological sciences at Barnard College, Columbia University; and Elizabeth C. Losos, adjunct professor at Duke University and president and CEO of the Organization for Tropical Studies, find that women in the field of ecological studies have experienced dramatic improvements, but persistent challenges remain.
In the present study, the authors surveyed the Organization for Tropical Studies graduate database, which also was surveyed in 1988, to determine the challenges still faced by women ecologists.
Certain aspects of women's situations have shown substantial improvement since 1988, such as an increased number of female colleagues, more equal sharing of childcare and household chores, and decreased perceptions of gender bias. However, women are still more likely to leave the field of science and have lower salaries, promotion rates, and productivity than do men. Women continue to have greater responsibility for childcare and housework and also experience challenges with childcare and safety while pursuing field-based research. These results indicate that although certain obstacles for women ecologists have substantially lessened, other issues of the family/work balance and of fieldwork still need to be addressed.
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