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Study Finds Bias Causing ‘Exodus’ of Women from Science Careers

June 18, 2008 09:55 AM
by Liz Colville
A majority of women aged 35–40 who work in science, engineering and technology are leaving their careers, and it’s not parenthood that’s luring them away.

30-Second Summary

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The Athena Factor, a new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, found that more than half of women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) are “dropping out,” many between the ages of 35 and 40, and the primary reasons are gender bias and inequality in the workplace.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an author of the study, told Computerworld that, although parenting responsibilities might seem like an obvious reason for women to leave SET jobs, she and the other authors “found four other more important factors about the culture and the nature of the career path.”

The Athena study identified five so-called “antigens” as responsible for the trend, including the prevalence of “hostile macho cultures” in the workplace.

A related report published in April by the Association for Women in Science found salary discrepancies between men and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who have equal credentials. Men are paid more, and the gap widens among women and men with advanced degrees.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation to curb “unintentional biases and outmoded institutional structures” in science-related industries.

For women in technology companies, the picture may be more promising. FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher said she finds “the atmosphere and attitudes in Silicon Valley companies are far different” than they were earlier in her career.

Headline Link: ‘Stopping the Exodus of Women in Science’

Opinions & Analysis: Gender differences and biases in ‘SET’ workplaces

Related Topics: Science’s salary gap, female leadership in Silicon Valley, and smart girls

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