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Women In Science

Women chemists still face discrimination in academia

Survey shows little has changed in the decade since female professors were last asked about their careers

by Andrea Widener
July 26, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 31


Female chemists continue to face a chilly climate in academia, despite decades of work toward change, according to a survey published in the Journal of Chemical Education (2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.8b00221).

Women now make up 41% of Ph.D. recipients in chemistry, up from 35% in 2007. But they have not made much progress in becoming faculty members; women represent less than 20% of tenured and tenure-track faculty at the top 50 chemistry schools.

To get insight into this problem, the authors surveyed over 400 women who participated in workshops by the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists (COACh). The authors compared the results of a 2007–08 survey with a second survey from 2015–16.

“We found no indication that women academic chemists viewed the field as more welcoming and equitable in recent years compared to a decade earlier,” the paper says.

In fact, the surveys showed that barriers to recruiting, hiring, and recognizing female chemists in academia continued or, in some cases, got worse in recent years. Perceptions of inequality remained consistent across younger and older faculty, racial and ethnic lines, and levels of experience in administration. It also persisted in all subfields of chemistry.

COACh’s efforts to teach women how to navigate hostile work environments continue to be needed, the study authors say.


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