There is a lot of talk concerning the topic of female professionals in Life Sciences. Recently, the British biochemist, Tim Hunt, made a statement about women in labs, which got him fired at the University College London (UCL).
Tim Hunt said: ‘The problem with women in labs; “You start falling in love with them and they will fall in love with you and as soon as you criticize them, they will start crying”.
It makes sense that a statement like this created a serious backlash from the Life Sciences community. His words were taken very seriously and caused a lot of unrest.
So how did Mr. Hunt get to this conclusion? Was it just his own ideas or is this a general idea that pervades in the Life Sciences industry? Here at SIRE Life Sciences® we can’t think of any reasons that female life scientists would be less employable based on their gender. We couldn’t even believe they would be less employable to begin with.
Even though half of the women in science and engineering now receive a doctorates in the United States, only 21 percent work as full science professors and roughly 5 percent as engineering professors. The gender gap is a hot debate and research has shown where this difference stems from.
It has been proven that women drop out of the science pipeline more than men after receiving their Ph.D. This problems seems to involve the balance between work and life. Practice finds that when a household starts having children, the mother is the most common family member who stays with the children during this first part of their life. It is a difficult challenge to balance the child's’ care and the working activities of research and development activities of most companies within the Life Sciences. There is a great deal of pressure to achieve and most institutions provide only a limited amount of time a professor can work without tenure.
Discrimination does not always happens intentional, but it has been proven that people are more unconsciously biased than expected. This unconscious bias may suppress the hiring of woman in scientific careers. Women with Ph.D. degrees have a better chance of getting an academic job in theory compared to men. In practice, men have better chances at getting hired. One of the most successful strategies to overcome this bias is to use gender-blind hiring.
The governing body of the European Union has instituted quotas to decrease the gender gap in Europe. In this case the commission is requiring that 40 percent from the members of the advisor boards for the EU’s research-funding program are a women. Strategies are being set up as the industry tries to support flexible working schedules for women, and take into account child care facilities as well as unbiased hiring procedures.
Motivation and participation are the basis for high quality results in research. By creating a transparent industry culture, which is more democratic and sensitive to gender and diversity, all scientist will be able to benefit more from the industry.