Resources for Women Scientists

And anyone balancing a scientific career with raising a family



Dr. Ramit Mehr, Bar-Ilan University, Israel  


1.   Is there still inequality in the advancement of women in the sciences?  NEW! New York Times article.

2.   What are the main reasons for the gender gap in science careers?

3.   Are there any resources that may help women – or anyone trying to balance career and family duties?

See also: a Resource list compiled by Prof. Teresa L. Rees, Cardiff University


Is there still inequality in the advancement of women in the sciences?

Unfortunately the answer to this question is still “yes”. (See, for example, the Report on the Status of Women in the Academic profession in the web page of the American Association of University Professors, which also contains many useful resources); or the article by the Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering of the USA National Academics. The latter states that:

“Forty years ago, women made up only 3 percent of America's scientific and technical workers, but by 2003 they accounted for nearly one-fifth.  In addition, women have earned more than half of the bachelor's degrees awarded in science and engineering since 2000.  However, their representation on university and college faculties fails to reflect these gains.  Among science and engineering Ph.D.s, four times more men than women hold full-time faculty positions.  And minority women with doctorates are less likely than white women or men of any racial or ethnic group to be in tenure positions.  Previous studies of female faculty have shed light on common characteristics of their workplace environments.  In one survey of 1,000 university faculty members, for example, women were more likely than men to feel that colleagues devalued their research, that they had fewer opportunities to participate in collaborative projects, and that they were constantly under a microscope.  In another study, exit interviews of female faculty who "voluntarily" left a large university indicated that one of their main reasons for leaving was colleagues' lack of respect for them.”


In the life sciences, the job market is bleak and unpromising for those tens of thousands of PhDs that are having trouble finding permanent jobs, and women are at a disadvantage in this fierce competition. (See the NRC report on Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists). To achieve equal opportunity, women should make use of every helpful resource.

Women in Science – recent activity in the US (powerpoint resentation)

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What are the main reasons for the gender gap in science careers?

Some of the reasons are listed in the above-mentioned sources. In my opinion, the main reasons are:

·       Prejudice in hiring and promotion – women may be invited to more interviews but this is just a “lip service” to equality; men still prefer to hire and promote those that are like them – that is, other men. They may not even be aware of it, but will judge the women differently, and usually not implement institutional policies regarding taking childbirth or relative care into account in their evaluations. This improves as soon as women make it into the hiring and promotions boards.

·        Exclusion from networking opportunities – a lot of networking goes on between men in unofficial circumstances such as the pub, sports team or prayer circles. The men also tend to invite their buddies to talk in conferences etc. The American Association of Immunologists has a page listing potential women speakers – so at least in immunology, the fact that one doesn’t know women speakers in any given topic is no excuse for inviting only men! Women are ignored even when they speak up in discussions, etc.


·       Family/Career balance – women still take more than their share of the load, and enlightened policies of long maternity leave etc are a double-edged sword, as they cause employers to hesitate before hiring women in the childbearing age.


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Are there any resources that may help women – or anyone trying to balance career and family duties?

The few resources I list below supply a large amount of information supporting the claim of inequality.

Fortunately, some of them also offer various ways of dealing with the problems of women in science, from lists of grants and awards to mentoring networks. I strongly recommend that female scientists take advantage of these resources. I have listed only a few web pages, which are good points for the beginning of a search.

International Organizations and resources:

ScienceCareers.Org has many career resources for scientists in general, and I recommend the “Scientists as Parents” page for resources such as “return from family leave” fellowships, and many personal stories and advice. Hopefully, nobody will need to apply the advice I included in my own article, “Balancing Career, Motherhood, and Widowhood (…and Remarriage!)”.


Organizations  and resources based in Europe:

European Professional Women’s Network 

European Association for Women in science and Technology


Organizations  and resources based in the Americas:

Association of Women in Science – Lists many helpful resources and organizations, including some of those listed below. AWIS is very active in advancing the concerns of women scientists. The AWIS magazine always contains very useful articles about all aspects of a female scientist's life. The spring 1999 issue had a listing of many useful web sites for career planning.

American Association of University Women

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page – Individuals, History, Organizations, Careers, Education and more.

The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Committee on the Status of Women – is responsible for generating and developing programs that assure equal treatment of all professional immunologists on the basis of merit.

American Medical Women's Association

Association for Women in Mathematics – The AWM has many programs for increasing the visibility of female mathematicians, grants, travel grants, awards and more.

Association for Women in Computing and more on Women in Computing

Women in Engineering organization and resources from IEEE Spectrum Careers

4000 years of women in the Sciences

National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science

Resources from the Northern Chapter of the New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering


Recommended Books:

·       A Hand Up – Edited by Deborah C. Fort, PhD, and published by the Association for Women in Science, the 2005 edition is completely revised and updated. The famous "paper mentor" is full of interviews, advice, and resources for mentors and aspiring young scientists everywhere. Perfect for teaching and a valuable resource for any library!

·       Book list of the AWIS NJ Chapter




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