A report on the underrepresentation of women in science and math by the American Association of University Women, to be released Monday, found that although women have made gains, stereotypes and cultural biases still impede their success.
The report found ample evidence of continuing cultural bias. One study of postdoctoral applicants, for example, found that women had to publish 3 more papers in prestigious journals, or 20 more in less-known publications, to be judged as productive as male applicants.
The report also found that girls have less confidence in their math abilities than boys with equivalent achievement levels. Because most people choose careers where they believe they can do well, the report said, girls’ lesser belief in their skills may partly explain why fewer young women go into scientific careers. Both the university women’s report and the Bayer survey stress the need for more female mentors and role models.
But even as women earn a growing share of the doctorates in the STEM fields, the university women’s report found, they do not show up, a decade later, in a proportionate number of tenured faculty positions.
According to national studies, women hold more than half of all professional occupations in the U.S. but fewer than 24 percent of all computing-related occupations, representing a huge pool of untapped talent. The numbers are not moving in favor of increasing women’s participation in technology; in 2008 women earned only 18 percent of all computer science degrees. Back in 1985, women earned 37 percent of CS degrees, nearly double today’s share.
There are more medical women today in academia as students, residents and faculty than ever before. However, a certain silence continues to dismiss the challenges they face in balancing career demands, family life, gender biases and harassment. This same silence continues to perpetuate a culture that is inhospitable to the retention of women in academic medicine.