By jessie kornberg • November 08, 2007•Firms and the Private Sector
The National Institute of Health, a primary public funder of American scientific research and the largest biomedical research facility in the U.S., recently released the results of a study of women's reasons for departing from their scientific careers. Like law schools, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs in the sciences are comprised of nearly equal numbers of men and women, but the upper eschelons of scientific academia continue to be imbalanced.
The study found that family considerations are the major reason for the continued departure of women from these disciplines. The study cited a lack of self-confidence as the other major barrier. The authors of the study concluded that "the loss of talented women from the research track can be reduced by mentoring and a change in the scientific culture to accommodate the needs of both women and men who wish to combine family and scientific careers."
One thing I really liked about this study is it pointed out a second, less talked about, disparity between male and female professionals: "The vast majority of married women have a full-time working spouse, whereas about half of married men have a spouse that works part-time or within the home."
Thinking about the lack of female professional retention as a dual-earner problem as opposed to a gender one is really interesting to me. Now don't get me wrong-I'm not here to advocate for a return to 1950's-leave it to beaver-traditional family models. On the other hand I think it's easy to forget that this isn't just about equality - equal treatment isn't enough, because no amount of at-work support and enlightment will convince many mothers to stay at the office while she feels her family suffers for it- this is about modern family structure catching up to modern education and careerism.
That might not seem like a big distinction, but it helps remind me that fathers and partners are just as integral to the success of professional women as employers and co-workers and women themselves.