Why It's Crucial to Get More Women Into Science
Amid growing signs that gender bias has affected research outcomes and damaged women's health, there’s a new push to make science more relevant to them.
James Gross, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has a 13-year-old daughter who loves math and science. It hasn't occurred to her yet that that's unusual, he says. "But I know in the next couple of years, it will."
She's already being pulled out of class to do advanced things "with a couple of other kids, who are guys," he says. And as someone who studies human emotion for a profession, Gross says, "I know as time goes on, she'll feel increasingly lonely as a girl who's interested in math and science"—and be at risk of narrowing her choices in life before finding out how far she could have gone. (See "In Her Words: Sylvia Earle on Women in Science.")
Gross's concern speaks volumes about what has been a touchy subject in the world of science for a long time: Why are there still so few women in science, and how might that affect what we learn from research?
Women now make up half the national workforce, earn more college and graduate degrees than men, and by some estimates represent the largest single economic force in the world. Yet the gender gap in science persists, to a greater degree than in other professions, particularly in high-end, math-intensive fields such as computer science and engineering.
According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women in fields commonly referred to as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) made up 7 percent of that workforce in 1970, a figure that had jumped to 23 percent by 1990. But the rise essentially stopped there. Two decades later, in 2011, women made up 26 percent of the science workforce.
Rosalind Franklin Society sponsors BIO Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership
New Rochelle, NY -- The Rosalind Franklin Society is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership that will be presented to Dr. Debbie Yaver. Dr. Yaver’s work and leadership over twenty years in engineering industrial microorganisms embodies the spirit of Rosalind Franklin and her pioneering efforts.
Dr. Yaver received her Bachelor’s degree in Bacteriology from the University of California-Davis. After working for two years on oil field microbiology at SRI International, Dr. Yaver returned to UC-Davis where she earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology. Her dissertation research focused on the analysis of the in vivo function of 7S RNA in the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica. Dr. Yaver then conducted her postdoctoral research at UC-Davis, where she studied the role of the vacuolar ATPase in protein sorting.
Following her post-doctoral education, Dr. Yaver accepted a position as a Research Scientist in the Novo Nordisk enzyme division, the predecessor of what is now Novozymes. For over twenty two years, Dr. Yaver has made extraordinary scientific contributions to Novozymes’ fundamental knowledge and expertise in gene expression technology in bacterial and fungal systems. Currently, Dr. Yaver is the Director of Expression Technology, Genomics and Bioinformatics at Novozymes research center in Davis, California. Her research departments focus on engineering microbial strains for production of enzymes, other proteins and small molecules as well as extensive genomics and bioinformatics. Dr. Yaver is an author on many scientific publications in top-line peer-reviewed journals. Her vision and passion for industrial biotechnology is reflected by the fact that she is an inventor on nearly forty issued patents. Dr. Yaver truly leads by example, and her success is a strong reflection of the inspiration and mentorship she provides to her colleagues. Dr. Yaver is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society of Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB) and is chairing a SIMB Presidential Committee on Strategic Planning. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing at University of Iowa. She has remained active at UC-Davis and for several years and has taught a graduate level seminar on industrial biotechnology from discovery to product, which is part of the UC-Davis Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology program. Dr. Yaver is also a member of the Executive Committee for the UC-Davis NIH Training Grant for Biomolecular Technology and the Advisory Committee of the UC-Davis CREATE-IGERT Training program.
More than twenty female leaders in industrial biotechnology were nominated for the award. Dr. Yaver’s accomplishments and dedication stood out to the Rosalind Franklin Award Selection Committee, who selected her as the inaugural recipient. BIO will present Dr. Yaver with the BIO Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology at the 2014 BIO Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy.
About Rosalind Franklin:
Just as Rosalind Franklin paved the way for women in the biotechnology field, the BIO Rosalind Franklin Award will be presented to a pioneering woman in the industrial biotechnology sector who has made significant contributions to the advancement of the biobased economy and biotech innovation. The Rosalind Franklin Award will stand as a lasting memory to the legacy left by Rosalind Franklin, who was instrumental in the discovery and our greater understanding of the molecular structure of DNA, by honoring those women who too have made significant contributions in industrial biotechnology. Through Rosalind Franklin’s use of X-ray diffraction images, the true double helix structure of DNA was discovered. Indeed, it was with the help of Franklin’s images and writings that eventually led Francis Crick and James Watson to release their 1953 model of the structure of DNA. Though often overlooked, Rosalind Franklin’s critical work and discovery in the field has allowed the expansive growth of the biotechnology industry to become what it is today. As said by John Desmond Bernal, a fellow X-ray crystallographer, of Franklin’s crystallographic portraits of DNA, “Her photographs were among the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken.”
With this award we hope to not only honor Rosalind Franklin’s legacy, but honor those women who have also shown exemplary leadership and led the way through previously uncharted territory.
More Information Available Here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bofran.html
Please see some of the 2014 nominees below :
1.Maria J. Barbosa, Director AlgaePARC, Wageningen, The Netherlands
2. Nahla V. Bassil, Geneticist, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Clonal Germplasm Repository
3.Cathy Burzik, Operating Partner, Targeted Technology
4.Raquel Lia Chan, Ph.D. Instituto de Agrobiotecnologia del Litoral (CONICET-UNL)
5.Helena L. Chum, Research Fellow, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
6.Katrina Cornish, Ph. D, The Oho State University
7.Carole L. Cramer, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State Univ., Arkansas Biosciences Institute
8.Lisa Dyson, CEO, Kiverdi
9.Vonnie Estes, Managing Director, GranBio
10. Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President, Renewable Products, Neste Oil Corporation
11. Hoi-Ying Holman, Director, Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology Program, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
12. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech
13. Ethel Noland Jackson, DuPont Fellow, DuPont CR&D Biotechnology
14. K’Lynne Johnson, CEO & President, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc.
15. Dr. Christine Lang, CEO, Organobalance GmbH
16. Ellen Lee, Team Leader, Plastics Research, Ford Motor Company
17. Rosemarie Osborne, Research Fellow, Procter & Gamble
18. Anna Rath, President and CEO, NexSteppe
19. Dr. Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi, Director, Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre, Malaysian Palm Oil Board
20. Theodora Retzina, CEO, American Process Inc.
21. Debbie Yaver, Director, Expression Technology, Genomics and Bioinformatics, Novozymes, Inc.
22. Xiao-Ying Yu, Senior Research Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Academic Science Isn’t Sexist
ACADEMIC science has a gender problem: specifically, the almost daily reports about hostile workplaces, low pay, delayed promotion and even physical aggression against women. Particularly in math-intensive fields like the physical sciences, computer science and engineering, women make up only 25 to 30 percent of junior faculty, and 7 to 15 percent of senior faculty, leading many to claim that the inhospitable work environment is to blame.
Our country desperately needs more talented people in these fields; recruiting more women could address this issue. But the unwelcoming image of the sexist academy isn’t helping. Fortunately, as we have found in a thorough analysis of recent data on women in the academic workplace, it isn’t accurate, either.
There’s no argument that, until recently, universities deserved their reputations as bastions of male privilege and outright sexism. But times have changed. Many of the common, negative depictions of the plight of academic women are based on experiences of older women and data from before the 2000s, and often before the 1990s. That’s not to say that mistreatment doesn’t still occur — but when it does, it is largely anecdotal, or else overgeneralized from small studies. As we found, when the evidence of mistreatment goes beyond the anecdotal, it is limited to a small number of comparisons of men and women involving a single academic rank in a given field on a specific outcome.
In contrast, our work, which is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest and was written with the economists Donna K. Ginther, of the University of Kansas, and Shulamit Kahn, of Boston University, reports the results of several hundred analyses of data on hiring, salary, promotion, productivity and job satisfaction for eight broad fields of science at American universities and colleges.
Our analysis reveals that the experiences of young and midcareer women in math-intensive fields are, for the most part, similar to those of their male counterparts: They are more likely to receive hiring offers, are paid roughly the same (in 14 of 16 comparisons across the eight fields), are generally tenured and promoted at the same rate (except in economics), remain in their fields at roughly the same rate, have their grants funded and articles accepted as often and are about as satisfied with their jobs. Articles published by women are cited as often as those by men. In sum, with a few exceptions, the world of academic science in math-based fields today reflects gender fairness, rather than gender bias.
Moreover, in contrast to frequent claims that outright bias pushes more women out of math-intensive fields, we actually found a greater exodus of women from non-math-intensive fields in which they are already well represented as professors (like psychology and biology, where 45 to 65 percent of new professors are women) than from fields in which they are underrepresented (like engineering, computer science and physics, where only 25 to 30 percent of new professors are women). Our analyses show that women can and do prosper in math-based fields of science, if they choose to enter these fields in the first place.
So if alleged hiring and promotion biases don’t explain the underrepresentation of women in math-intensive fields, what does? According to our research, the biggest culprits are rooted in women’s earlier educational choices, and in women’s occupational and lifestyle preferences.
As children, girls tend to show more interest in living things (such as people and animals), while boys tend to prefer playing with machines and building things. As adolescents, girls express less interest in careers like engineering and computer science. Despite earning higher grades throughout schooling in all subjects — including math and science — girls are less likely to take math-intensive advanced-placement courses like calculus and physics.
Women are also less likely to declare college majors in math-intensive science fields. However, if they do take introductory science courses early in their college education, they are actually more likely than men to switch into majors in math-intensive fields of science — especially if their instructors are women. This shows that women’s interest in math-based fields can be cultivated, but that majoring in these fields requires exposure to enough math and science early on.
In contrast to math-based fields, women prefer veterinary medicine, where they now constitute 80 percent of graduates, and life sciences, in which they earn over half of all doctoral degrees; women are also half of all newly minted M.D.s and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.s. However, those college women who do choose math-intensive majors like engineering persist in them through graduate school and into the academy at the same rate as their male counterparts — again showing that women can and do succeed in math-based fields if they develop interest in them and commit to them.
Today’s story about women in math-based academic fields is clear. While no career is without setbacks and challenges, life in fields like engineering, physics, mathematics and computer science — when viewed by the numbers across the population of academics today rather than through the lens of testimonials and overgeneralized findings — is life with reasonable pay, flexibility to meet family demands, and the chance to make meaningful impacts on the state of knowledge and the next generation of talented young people. Academic science is a rewarding career for many, men and women alike. We are not your father’s academy anymore.
The flawed and offensive logic of "Academic Science Isn’t Sexist" in the @nytimes
The opinion piece is by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci and discusses work by them (and coauthors). In particular they discuss findings in a massive report "Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape" by Stephen J. Ceci, Donna K. Ginther, Shulamit Kahn, and Wendy M. Williams in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. I note - kudos to the authors for making this available freely and under what may be an open license and also apparently for making much of their data available behind their analyses.
The opinion piece and the associated article have a ton of things to discuss and ponder and analyze for anyone interested in the general issue of women in academic science. I am not in any position at this time to comment on any of the specific claims made by the authors on this topic. But certainly I have a ton of reading to do and am looking forward to it.
However, I do want to write about one thing - really just one single thing - that really bothers me about their New York Times article. I do not know if this was intentional on their part, but regardless I think there is a major flaw in their piece.
First, to set the stage -- their article starts off with the following sentences:
Academic science has a gender problem: specifically, the almost daily reports about hostile workplaces, low pay, delayed promotion and even physical aggression against women. Particularly in math-intensive fields like the physical sciences, computer science and engineering, women make up only 25 to 30 percent of junior faculty, and 7 to 15 percent of senior faculty, leading many to claim that the inhospitable work environment is to blame.This then sets the stage for the authors to discuss their analyses which leads them to conclude that in recent times, there are not biases against women in hiring, publishing, tenure, and other areas. Again, I am not in any position to examine or dispute their claims about these analyses - to either support them or refute them.
But the piece makes what to me appears to be a dangerous and unsupported connection. They lump together what one could call "career progression" topics (such as pay, promotion, publishing, citation, etc) with workplace topics (hostility and physical aggression against women). And yet, they only present or discuss data on the career progression issues. Yet once they claim to find that career progression for women in math heavy fields seems to be going well recently, they imply that the other workplace issues must not be a problem. This is seen in statements like "While no career is without setbacks and challenges" and "As we found, when the evidence of mistreatment goes beyond the anecdotal" and "leading many to claim that the inhospitable work environment is to blame."
Whether one agrees with any or all of their analyses (which again, I am not addressing here) I see no justification for their inclusion of any mention of hostile workplaces and physical agression against women. So - does this mean that a woman who does well in her career cannot experience physical aggression of any kind? Also - I note - I am unclear I guess in some of their terminology usage - is their use of the term "physical aggression" here meant to discount reports of sexual violence? This reminds me of the "Why I stayed" stories of domestic violence. Just because a women's career is doing OK does not mean that she did not experience workplace hostility or physical or sexual violence. I hope - I truly hope - that the authors did not intend to imply this. But whether they did or not, their logic appears to be both flawed and offensive.