The "leaky pipeline" describes the declining proportion of women in science as they progress up through the career ranks. The latest results from ACS's Committee on Professional Training show that in 2006, women received 51.9% of bachelor degrees in chemistry, 48.6% of masters degrees, and 35.8% of Ph.D.s (C&EN, Sept. 17, 2007, p. 43). Meanwhile, women made up just 14% of the tenured or tenure-track chemistry faculty at the top 50 schools in 2006–07 (C&EN, Dec. 18, 2006, p. 58). In industry, 12.0% of people serving on boards of directors in 2007 were women, as were 9.2% of executive officers (C&EN, July 30, 2007, p. 38).
Reasons given for the drop-off are varied. A trio of blog posts from the past week highlight some of the issues that women in the physical sciences face when trying to advance their careers:
The More Things Change
[My colleague] sits in hiring committees and hears young male faculty question whether female applicants are capable of having their own ideas and working independently, but these issues are not raised for male applicants. He has been fighting this attitude for so long, he was discouraged that it wasn't something that went away as younger faculty were hired.
Letter from Europe: Here's Looking at You
[After returning from giving a preinterview seminar, Female Science Professor 1] said to me that she felt very good about her visit because there is an excellent academic fit between her field of expertise and where the institution wants to go. Something worried her though. She was told that [Female Science Professor 2], who is also an excellent young scientist, had the preference of a fraction of the (male) faculty because of her looks.
Gender Bias at FermiLab
# The [female post docs] in the study were more productive (as measured by internal publications), on average, than the males. Half of the males produced fewer internal papers per year than the least productive female in the sample. There was a much broader distribution for the male post docs: "nearly all the females are highly productive, whereas 1/2 the males produce almost nothing, somewhat half are moderately productive, and a select few are extremely productive." Note that internal publications were used to measure productivity because peer-reviewed journal publications always list all of the project's participants in alphabetical order as authors.
# Males were much more likely to be alloted conference presentations. The ratio of physics conference presentations to internal physics papers produced for males was double that of females (triple if all presentations and papers were considered).
Edited on May 14, 2008, to add another one: Perspective Changes
"Oh Invited Speaker was a little... umm... handsy, I suppose," I told him while Roommate and I sort of laughed. "He just didn't seem to have any boundaries. You should have seen [Female Grad Student] when we dropped him off. He did the reel-'em-in-and-kiss-'em-- on the cheek." Labmate, Roommate, and I laughed. Advisor didn't.
It would appear that gender discrimination still abounds, despite the best efforts of some. C&ENtral Science readers: What have you experienced or observed?