Reports calls for change in US academic system to produce leading women scientists

November 18th, 2007 - 4:15 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 18 (ANI): A new report has suggested that a few significant changes in the academic system in the U.S. could move more accomplished women scientists into positions of leadership, thus helping to balance the current gender inequality in the hierarchy of academia and to fortify the countrys overall scientific leadership.

The suggestion, by co-authors Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Editor-in-Chief of DNA and Cell Biology, and President of the Rosalind Franklin Society, and Robert Birgeneau, Ph.D., Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, comes as the U.S. continues to fall behind countries such as China and India in producing high-level scientists.

Established in early 2007 by Mary Ann Liebert, The Rosalind Franklin Society honours the achievements of the woman who pioneered the discovery of the structure of DNA by working to encourage greater opportunities for women in the biomedical sciences through education, mentoring, and advocacy.

Building on the results of a National Academy report entitled Beyond Bias and Barriers, which attributes the lack of women in academic leadership positions to a combination of unconscious biases and archaic university structures, Handelsman and Birgeneau back the Academys suggestion for educating the academic community about the insidious role of unconscious bias in decision-making.

Further, they criticised the antiquated tenure system, in which women are often held back from advancing to tenured professorships because of child-bearing and family responsibilities, as being in need of reform.

Relatively simple and straightforward changes such as tenure clock extensions, quality childcare, or job-sharing could enable an existing pool of talented and capable women scientists to move into the upper echelons of academia and scientific research and boost Americas competitiveness in research output across a variety of scientific and engineering disciplines.
The report is published in the November 2007 issue of DNA and Cell Biology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (ANI)

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