Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research

Article excerpt


...As profound as the transformation of America's consciousness has been during the past 150 years, hidden assumptions about sex and gender remain embedded in cultural discourses, social institutions, and individual psyches that invisibly and systemically reproduce male power in generation after generation. I call these assumptions the lenses of gender. Not only do these lenses shape how people perceive, conceive, and discuss social reality, but because they are embedded in social institutions, they also shape the more material things--like unequal pay and inadequate day care--that constitute social reality itself. The purpose of this book is to render those lenses visible rather than invisible, to enable us to look at the culture's gender lenses rather than through them... (p. 1)

Sandra L Bem (1993). The lenses of gender: Transforming the debate on sexual inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese-Myanmarese dissident and politician; Leader of National League for Democracy, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Despite many years of work to minimize gender bias in the workplace, women researchers often "disappear" alter about a decade in academia. This phenomenon continues to occur despite near parity of applicants, matriculating students and graduates in American medical schools (AAMC, 2008), and (beginning in 2000) nearly equal numbers of men and women earning science and engineering bachelor's degrees (NSF, 2007). This disappearance happens despite the fact that in 2006 women earned almost half (45%) the doctorates in the science and engineering fields (NSF 2009), and nearly the same as men in the natural sciences (Handelsman et al., 2005). This increase has continued since 2006 and is true today (NSF. 2010). The increased number of female students and doctoral recipients directly correlates with the number of women who serve as faculty in institutions of higher education, albeit at certain ranks and at certain types of institutions. Although the number of female assistant professors--and, in some disciplines, associate professors--is becoming equal to that of men, women are not attaining full professorships or upper administrative positions as often as men (Touchton, 2008). Why is this happening? This paper will review women's departure from academia and offer ways to re-attract them.

The Problem

Women are Leaving Academic Research

According to a recent report from the National Science Foundation, "growth in the number of female doctorate recipients (6.9%) was greater than growth in male doctorate recipients (6.2%)" (Falkenheim & Fiegener, 2008). Between 1979 and 2005, the percentage of master's degrees earned by women increased from 49% to 59%; during the same time period, the percentage of doctoral degrees awarded rose from 30% to 49% (NCES, 2007). In 2008-09 women for the first time were awarded a greater percentage of doctoral degrees (50.4%) than men (Bell, 2010).

The National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NCES, 2007) found that in 2004, 57.5% of the faculty and instructional staff were male and 42.5% were female. Males accounted for 13.6% of full professors, 8.6% of associate professors, and 8.1% of assistant professors; figures for females were 4.4%, 4.9%, and 6.6%, respectively (remaining percentages were divided among instructors, lecturers, and those with no rank). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2000), in 1997 16% of female faculty at degree-granting institutions had attained the rank of professor, a number that by 2005 had decreased to 15%. White (2005) examined the status and ranks of women at several research universities and confirmed that the number of female professors bad not increased from 2000 to 2005. …

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