From: The Scientist March 21 1994
Editors note: In 1991, with funding support from the
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of New York, a sociologist
and a chemist at Wellesley College led an interdisciplinary
research team--including social scientists, physical scientists
and life scientists, and mathematicians--in the first phase
of an extensive study, called "Pathways for Women in Science"
The study addressed the issues of why undergraduate women
set their sights on careers in scientific fields and what
promotes or impedes their success. Subjects of the study
were the women enrolled in the Massachusetts college's class
of 95 in addition to several cohorts of former Wellesley
math and science majors now in their early career years.
Part II of the study, begun in the Fall of 1993, focuses
on the years after graduation and the factors that influence
whether a woman decides to pursue a science career or to abandon
it for other professional options. For Part II, the researchers
while continuing to follow the experiences of the class of 1995
through their graduation, will study the work and graduate
school experiences of both science and non-science graduates
in their middle career years. In the following essay, two of
the key researchers-- Paula M. Rayman, director of the project
and Belle Brett, Senior research associate--discuss some of their
salient Part I findings.
By Paula M. Rayman and Belle Brett
The history of modern science demonstrates that women,
interms of their professional involvement, have been
"weeded out of" rather than "cultivated into" the field.
It is abundantly clear that while females have made
certain gains in specific disciplines, they remain
woefully underrepresented overall in science, mathematics
Our findings demonstrated that scientific workplaces are often
not "user friendly" for women. Those women who left science
careers at some point after graduation were more likely to
feel that their new choices were more compatible with family
life, suggestiong that science was not as hospitable to the
dual lives that most women lead as are some other fields.
IN ADDITION, EXPERIENCES WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND
DISCRIMINATION WERE ***** COMMON *****
among those in the sciences and medicine, both in graduate school
and in the workplace. Although many women showed reslilience in
the face of these problems, they often had to settle for working
in hostile or unsupportive environments.
Note New Address for SFI:
Santa Fe Institute