(Lack of) women in science

Thursday was International Women’s Day. The Lancet published an article discussing women in science and medicine and recounted the inspiring story of Utako Okamoto.

The article also contained statistics showing the drop in the proportion of women in academic science as we move from university graduates to professors – statistics that are very familiar to most of us.

The last European Commission’s SHE (statistics and indicators on Gender Equality in Science) figures in 2009 showed that in the 27 countries making up the European Union, 59% of university graduates are females but only 18% of full professors are women. …

Similarly in medicine, a recent survey by The Times newspaper found that despite 42% of British doctors being women, less than a quarter of clinical academics and only 14% of clinical professors are women. Worse still, some university-based medical schools have no tenured female professors in their research departments.

I find myself in an uncomfortable position with regards to the issue of women in science and academia. I am one of the many women who left the so-called pipeline. In fact, not only did I leave research and academia, I went into science writing and editing, where in many settings, it is the men who are outnumbered. As an editor, I worked on a team with one man and six women. I now work in PR, where my main team is comprised of one man and eight women.

It is worth noting that both these teams were and are led by a woman. Looking at the more senior positions, however, I suspect women may again be underrepresented.

I am where I need to be with regards to my career. But it makes me a little sad sometimes that the career move I made is not helping the gender gap in academia.


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