It’s a fact that women leave science and tech jobs in disproportionate numbers, and the gender gap is alive and well in both fields. Until now, the reasons for the under-representation and high turnover haven’t been documented through a thorough research study.
Well, it’s time to reveal the real reasons behind the gender gap in the science and tech fields. Thanks to a study conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy which will be published in the Harvard Business Review in June, there are hard numbers to support the secrets behind the gender gap in these industries.
Unlike the suspicions of a former Harvard President who three years ago asserted that women are under-represented in the science and tech fields because they lack what it takes to excel in those fields (note, those comments prompted this study), the reasons behind the gender gap are quite disturbing.
Here’s what the study of 2,493 people (1,000 men and 1,493 women) working in the science and tech fields found:
- A pervasive macho culture wherein men are hostile to female colleagues (53% of women said in order to succeed in their careers, they were required to "act like a man")
- Sexual harassment (63% of women have experienced sexual harassment on the job)
- Lack of mentors (51% of engineers, for example, said they did not have mentors)
- Hours that suit men with wives at home but not working mothers (41% of technology workers said they have to be available 24/7, which is nearly impossible with a family at home)
These are startling and disappointing statistics. We’ll have to wait and see if businesses change their cultures to reduce the gender gap in the science and tech fields in the future. Let’s hope so!
I can agree entirely with this study. I am now 52 years old and have worked in science since graduation (started later) with my BS in 1998. I found myself in the same position year after year in science, seeing male colleagues being developed, mentored, while I remained in the same technician roles. In complete frustration at this, I finally went back to school part time (while still working in a technician type role full time) for an MS (awarded in 2007 in biotechnology). This was with the hope that I might be seen as a candidate for development – it did not happen and a year later, I was laid off in 2008. I quickly found another job in yet another company where I am a technician, without development or potential. I am now actively looking for some alternative career where I can be in control of my own future, likely in some sort of business capacity – perhaps a franchise opportunity. It is so depressing to be passed over year after year in a career where you work so incredibly hard, and have nothing to show for it at 52.
I was glad to see the previous comment because it summed up my experience in science as well. It is like the elephant in the room-no one seems to want to talk about the fact that men are mentored much much more in science. Why don’t we just come right out and say it? Women are the workers, men are the thinkers; this is the going mentality. From my experience, the males in the lab had plenty of extra time as they were often paired up with female or occasionally male technicians to do the tedious, time-consuming experimental work, while the women were slaving along without much help. How can you network when you are chained to your experimental work? One postdoc I knew would be virtually absent from the lab if any big soccer games were on TV (he had to watch during the day as they were televised live internationally). This was not only condoned but admired among the professors, and he was given extra help to be able to do this. If a woman wanted time off, the general talk was that she was not serious enough about her career. The reason given most of the time for women dropping out is not having enough time for child care. If women were supported like the males in the lab, they would feel more confident in taking more time away from the lab. Women in science hear and experience so many things that are ridiculously unfair that they eventually see that the system will be stacked against them no matter what they do, and try to find a stable job in which they will feel that they have some value whatever way they can.