Barrières voor bètavrouwen in VS

Nieuws | de redactie
20 september 2006 | Sinds 2000 wordt meer dan de helft van de Amerikaanse bachelorgraden in bètavakken door vrouwen gehaald. Toch is maar eenvijfde van de bètadocenten aan universiteiten in de VS vrouw. Een rapport van de National Academies schrijft dat toe aan een masculien werkklimaat, dat impliciet in het nadeel werkt van vrouwen die hun wetenschappelijke werk met zorgtaken combineren. "Women are capable of contributing more to the nation's science and engineering research enterprise, but bias and outmoded practices governing academic success impede their progress almost every step of the way," aldus president Donna E. Shalala van de University of Miami, die het onderzoek leidde.

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.

Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering was produced by the National Academies’ 18-member Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, led by Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami.

The report urges immediate reform and decisive action by university administrators, professional societies, government agencies and Congress to eliminate institutional gender bias.

“Women are capable of contributing more to the nation’s science and engineering research enterprise, but bias and outmoded practices governing academic success impede their progress almost every step of the way,” said Shalala. “Fundamental changes in the culture and opportunities at America’s research universities are urgently needed. The United States should enhance its talent pool by making the most of its entire population.”

If academic institutions are not transformed to tackle such barriers, the future vitality of the U.S. research base and economy is in jeopardy, the report says.  The following are some of the committee’s key findings that underscore its call to action:

> Studies have not found any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in academic faculty and leadership positions in S&T fields.

> Measures of success underlying performance-evaluation systems are often arbitrary and frequently applied in ways that place women at a disadvantage.  “Assertiveness,” for example, may be viewed as a socially unacceptable trait for women but suitable for men.  Also, structural constraints and expectations built into academic institutions assume that faculty members have substantial support from their spouses.   Anyone lacking the career and family support traditionally provided by a “wife” is at a serious disadvantage in academe, evidence shows.  Today about 90 percent of the spouses of women science and engineering faculty are employed full time.   For the spouses of male faculty, it is nearly half. 

Compared with men, women faculty members are generally paid less and promoted more slowly, receive fewer honors, and hold fewer leadership positions.  These discrepancies do not appear to be based on productivity, the significance of their work, or any other performance measures, the report says.

If implemented and coordinated across public and private sectors as well as various institutions, the committee’s nearly two dozen recommendations would improve workplace environments for all employees while strengthening the foundations of America’s competitiveness. A brief overview of several recommendations follows.

– Universities also should examine evaluation practices, with the goal of focusing on the quality and impact of faculty contributions, the report says.

– In the past decade, several universities and agencies have taken steps to increase the participation of women on faculties and their numbers in leadership positions.   But such efforts have not transformed the fields, the report says.  Now is the time for widespread reform, the committee emphasized.   

– University leaders should incorporate the goal of counteracting bias against women in hiring, promotion, and treatment into campus strategic plans, the report says.  And leaders, working with the monitoring body proposed by the report, should review the composition of their student enrollments and faculty ranks each year — and publicize progress toward goals.

U vindt het rapport Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering hier.

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