After decades of lack of encouragement, opportunity, discrimination and bearing with injustices in the workplace, here’s good news that has a bold impact in society: female scientists are now getting the respect and recognition they deserve as the gender gap in science closes in, particularly in Brazil and Portugal.
Academic publisher Elsevier recently released a report which analyzed how female scientists are faring all over the world. According to The Economist, the “Gender in the Global Research Landscape” study looked at over 62 million papers published in a span of 20 years from 11 countries in the European Union. The academic papers were reviewed by qualified scientists and covered 27 areas of study.
Compared to the late 1990s, the number of female authors grew about 40%. Brazil and Portugal are the countries where women are almost equal to men in terms of prominence. Japan lags behind with a mere 1/5 of their researchers being women.
When it comes to field of expertise, it was found that female researchers excelled in the health care subjects. In fact, women in America and Britain outnumbered men in the fields of Nursing and Psychology. However, when it comes to filing and patenting their scientific inventions, it’s still the men who are more aggressive.
Engineering, another male-dominated field, is slowly becoming more receptive to women. Solo female authors only account for 10 to 32%; the good thing is that the number of female study co-authors go as high as 35 to 52%. This means that more women are seen by men as competent partners when writing academic projects and research papers.
Commitment and Follow Through
While the future looks bright for female scientists and researchers, one problem remains. There is a lower retention rate among women researchers than men. Women tend to drop out of their scientific careers more than men do. This could be due to a number of reasons, but it is highly likely that they do in favor of marriage or parenthood.
At Imperial College London, women make up 35% of undergrads. However, that number declines steeply as the women move up in rank and position. Case in point, only 15% of the college’s professors are women. Imperial is considered as one of the top tech institutions in the country; if women are “marginalized” here, it would make a weak case for women being more visible in the field of science and technology.
The problem is here not about women being recognized for their talents and abilities; or about meeting the approval of their peers. Women are expected to cover for the men when it comes to child care and housework. This is still the norm even in progressive and affluent countries.
As a result, it’s still difficult to paint the picture that being a female scientist is not only cool, but also attainable. Apart from being taught bold ideas and advanced technological concepts, female students should be given positive education – one that combines academics, well-being, and leadership so that women would feel more confident and capable in whatever field of study they choose.