Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Women in Science: Is There a Glass Ceiling in the Laboratory?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Women in Science: Is There a Glass Ceiling in the Laboratory?

Article excerpt

As is the case in many professions, women have had a difficult time obtaining parity in science. International and national studies aside, the circumstances at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation provide a window into the issues.

Of the 38 current "members" of the scientific staff -- i.e., principal investigator with permanent appointment -- nine scientists, or almost 24 percent, are women. Notably, women accounted for 40 percent of new hires at OMRF in the last decade.

Although women make up a significant percentage of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and young faculty in science today, nationwide only a relatively small fraction of the senior faculty ranks are filled by women. Indeed, only about 13 percent of the senior faculty in colleges and universities in the United States are women, according to a recent article in Science (286:1272-1278).

The OMRF does considerably better. Of the 29 senior faculty here, seven are women, representing nearly one quarter of the senior staff. However, only one female scientist has risen to the very top rank of faculty -- a program or department head -- and she recently relocated out of state. Currently there are no women serving at that level at the OMRF.

Why are women relatively under-represented in science, particularly at the senior ranks?

Several factors come into play. Science, like medicine, law, and business management, is not a 9-to-5 job. Most successful scientists -- both men and women -- seem to spend virtually all of their waking hours immersed in and conducting their research. Consequently, these scientists must strike a delicate balance between work and family. …

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