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Shortage of Female Scientists Continues

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Terrence K. O'Brien

LONDON -- There are more women graduating from science and engineering schools in Great Britain.

That's the good news.
The flip side is that the proportion of women who choose a science career remains unchanged. And even those who do enter the science and engineering fields usually receive low-level jobs.
There are efforts to encourage more women into more high-level science and engineering jobs, and that starts in school. That's based on the belief that if more women receive a technical education, it will result in more female scientists and engineers.
But experts at Roehampton Institute and the University of Surrey say that once women get into science, they don't progress to high-level positions.
Two national surveys in Great Britain examining where technical and science graduates work showed that in 1993 only about 15 percent of women with science and engineering degrees worked in those areas, compared with about 30 percent of men. Those statistics are virtually unchanged from a similar survey conducted in 1979. Engineering is the discipline where women were least likely to be employed, according to the survey.
Scientific jobs for women are more likely to be short-term positions. Women, as in many other jobs, also earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn.
Although many women leave science to have children, that alone does not account for the difference. At age 33, 56 percent of men but only 34 percent of childless women have professional or managerial jobs in science and engineering fields.
Researchers said it is an issue that needs serious examination by policy-makers in government and business.

Photonics Spectra
Nov 1997
Businesslight speed

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