Women in STEM Barriers, Milestones, Challenges, & Solutions LA-UR-14-20054
Numbers of women in STEM fields are increasing dramatically BUT: “Hard” sciences still attract and retain very few women Still very few women at higher levels in industry, academia, research More challenges still need to be overcome
Challenges (Past and Present) fall into three major categories: Culture Bias Balance
Culture:Historical Challenges • Women were viewed as frail, less intelligent, and not intended for intellectual study • The presence of women was viewed as distracting and sapping the physical and intellectual vigor of men • Girls did not have access to the same educational opportunities as the male counterparts (tutors, schools, colleges, graduate degrees) • Women were not allowed to own property and manage their own money
Culture:Historical Milestones • Hypatia taught mathematics and philosophy in 4th century Alexandria (but was killed by a Christian mob who considered her teachings heretical) • Elena LucreziaCornaroPiscopia receives a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Padua on June 25, 1678 (but only because her father insisted that the university allow her to sit for examination). • Laura Bassi was the first women university professor of physics in 18th century Italy (and bore 12 children) • Vassar College, the first female institution of higher education in the United States, is founded in 1861. Six more “Seven Sisters” colleges are chartered between 1870 and 1894. Cherokee Female Seminary (high school) is founded in 1851. • Russian-born Sonia Kovaleskia receives a doctorate in mathematics in 1874 from the University of Gottingen (after the Weierstrass in Berlin refuses to grant a degree to a woman) and is appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Stockhom. • Helen Magill (White), the first women in the United States to earn a doctorate, received a Ph.D. in Greek from Boston University in 1877. Yale University grants seven doctorates to women in 1894.
Culture:20th Century Milestones • Marie Curie, along with husband Pierre Curie, received the Nobel Prize for Physics and 1903 and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. Their daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and her husband Frederic Joliot received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. • Lisa Meitner, an Austrian-born Jewish nuclear physicist, co-discovered nuclear fission with Otto Hahn. Only Hahn was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. • Maria Goeppert Mayer, along with Eugene Wigner and Hans Jensen, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 for determining the structure of nuclear shells. • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin is the first woman to be the sole recipient of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded in 1964 for her work in x-ray crystallography.
Culture:Sheryl Sandberg Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has written a book about women in corporate America titled Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sandberg’s tips: Men are promoted based on potential, women are promoted based on accomplishments Negotiate like a man; don’t take the first offer that you get Don’t lower your expectations and believe that you are getting what you deserve “Everyone needs to get more comfortable with female leaders, including female leaders themselves.”
Culture:LANL 20th Century Milestones • Less than one dozen female scientists worked on the Manhattan project in Los Alamos. One, Elizabeth “Diz” Graves, was seven months pregnant when she recorded radioactivity from the Trinity test. • Darleane Hoffman, a nuclear chemist, became the first woman to head a scientific division at LANL (then LASL) when she was appointed to lead the Chemistry and Nuclear Chemistry Division in 1979. • Earle Marie Hanson appointed first female leader of a weapons directorate at LANL in 1992. • Carolyn Mangeng is first female deputy director of LANL from 2003 to 2006.
Culture:21st Century Challenges • Many STEM academic departments still promote a culture of competition instead of collaboration. Women overwhelmingly prefer a collaborative environment and have a higher persistence rate in departments that promote communal living, study groups and collaborative problem solving. • Many academic departments still champion career goals of individual success and the achievement of bigger/faster/taller. Women overwhelmingly prefer career goals of “working together” and “making the world a better place”. • Women have fewer opportunities to be mentored and to participate in networking opportunities; men often choose to mentor someone who “looks like me”; networking opportunities often take place at places where women are not comfortable or that they do not frequent (bars, golf courses, the men’s room, etc.)
Culture:21st Century Solutions • Make sure that your students are involved in study groups and collaborative projects; for students, post-docs and early career staff, make sure that your projects have “green” or “world-changing” or “peace-promoting” elements. • Emphasize and reward teamwork and collaboration in grad school, for postdoc, and for scientists/engineers. Fire or demote your showboating, uber-competitive lone wolves; research shows that these “superstars” always cost more than they are worth (see “The No A**hole Rule” by Robert Sutton). • Make sure all students, post-docs and early career staff have access to high-quality mentors, coaches, and supervisors. Make sure that your top mentors and supervisors are rewarded for growing and encouraging their people.
Bias21st Century Challenges • While overt bias against women has diminished, women are still judged on different criteria than their male counterparts (an “aggressive” man is good, a “bitchy” woman is bad). • Reference letters for top women often mention personal characteristics while those for top men emphasize performance and potential. • Unconscious bias: Both men and women rate identical resumes, papers, etc. lower when a female name is attached than when a male name is attached. Lower starting salaries are offered to women with identical credentials, and performance evaluations and scores are lower for women with the same performance.
Bias21st Century Solutions • Utilize blind evaluations – remove name and any other potential identifying data (gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) from resumes, reference letters, and papers. • Train human resource personnel, screening and selection committees, and hiring managers in how raise awareness of and design processes to mitigate unconscious biases. • Train human resource personnel and managers to use objective criteria and baseline performance evaluations to remove gender and ethnic biases.
BiasMeg Urry Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the department of physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics. Here she discusses her reaction to the recent Yale study of university science faculties and their unconscious bias against women. “I also struggled to understand why I didn't seem to belong in my field -- why I was overlooked for leadership roles, why I was underpaid, why my suggestions were ignored until a male colleague proposed the same idea and why female scientists in general garnered a disproportionately small share of honors and awards.”
Balance21st Century Challenges • 85% of married female scientists/engineers are married to scientists/engineers; 15% of male scientists/engineers are married to scientists/engineers; therefore the two-body problem affects many more female scientists/engineers than male scientists/engineers. • Women scientists/engineers with male partners still perform the majority of housework and child care; these women have the equivalent of another half-time job at home. Single women are more likely than their single male counterparts to have children; these women have an extra 30-35 hours per week of housekeeping and child care responsibilities. • Many managers still consider time spent at work and important performance metric; women often find ways to “work smarter” instead of “work harder”, but these efforts often go unrecognized.
BalanceAnne-Marie Slaughter Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011. “The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed” “[M]illionsof women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot)”
Balance21st Century Solutions • Women value and are helped by flexible schedules more than their male counterparts. Flextime, work at home, and job sharing can help women achieve their personal and professional goals while reducing absenteeism, turnover and improving morale and productivity for employers. • Stopping the “tenure clock” for childbirth, adoption, and infant care can reduce turnover and allow women to advance in their careers; industry and government labs can expand the timeline for early career awards and advancement. • On-site child-care centers and/or subsidies for local childcare centers to provide drop-in or short term care;clean, private pumping stations for new mothers; subsidies for local hospitals or urgent care clinics to provide sick child care. These will reduce absenteeism and turnover, and boost morale and productivity.
Summary Women have made gigantic strides toward equality in the STEM fields, but cultural stereotypes, the effects of unconscious bias, and work/family balance issues continue to lead to reduced persistence of women in STEM, lack of women at high levels, and limits on the ability of women to seek advancement and achieve their professional goals. We now have a wealth of data about the challenges that face women in STEM and most effective ways to address these issues. Now we just have to go forward and implement these solutions. Let’s all work together to move forward and achieve equality and parity in all STEM fields at all levels!
For more information Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, and Women Scientists in America: Forging a New World Since 1972. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Virginia Valian, Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women. The MIT Press, 1999. Joanne Moody, Rising Above Cognitive Errors: Improving Searches, Evaluations, & Decision-Making. www.diversityoncampus.com LondaSchiebinger, Women in Science: Historical Perspectives. www.stsci.edu/stsci/meetings/WiA/schieb.pdf Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013.