Catalyst study finds women scientists attracted to careers in industry over academia

June 09, 1999

New York City, June 9, 1999-American industry eagerly seeks scientists to hire yet companies have a virtually unmined talent pool of women to draw from, according to a new study released today by Catalyst. Women Scientists in Industry: Making It in Both Management and Technical Roles, based on in-depth interviews with 30 leading women scientists, finds that over half-17 out of 30-report that they were given little or no information about the corporate job market for industrial science careers. Nearly a third of the women scientists in the study (9 out of 30) chose the business sector not because they were recruited into it, but because they did not feel welcomed into academia. Catalyst finds that these women were attracted to applied science and product development.

"Companies need to do a better job of marketing themselves to the next generation of women scientists. One way to do that is to build stronger relationships between universities and corporations," said Sheila Wellington, Catalyst President. Between 1975 and 1995, the percent of total science doctorates earned by women nearly doubled, from 16 to 31 percent (U.S. National Science Foundation, 1995). "As this trend continues and accelerates in the next century, the imperative for business to recruit, retain, and advance talented women scientists becomes increasingly evident," Wellington continued. "But companies seem to have scant knowledge about recruiting and retaining this highly marketable talent pool."

Profile of Women Scientists
All the women (30) in the study are employed in industry. Sixteen are vice president or higher in their companies; six are directors; six are project managers; and two are fellows. The majority of women in the study are on the management track, as opposed to the technical one.

Barriers to Advancement
Like other groups of women in business that Catalyst has studied, women scientists do face organizational barriers to advancement. These include an absence of female role models; an absence of mentors; lack of line experience; isolation; exclusion from informal networks; stereotypes and preconceptions; style differences; risk-averse supervisors; and work/life balance. Twenty-seven of the 30 women in this study report that they had to struggle against the perception that science was a male pursuit.

Success Strategies
Catalyst's study of women scientists surfaced the following strategies for getting ahead: cultivating technical expertise; developing a successful style; obtaining stretch assignments; having a mentor; networking both inside and outside the company.

The Catalyst study provides recommendations for companies and individual women. Recommendations headlining the list for companies emphasize recruitment-focusing on increasing the visibility of careers in business for women in science and creating win-win collaborations between academic and the industrial setting: (1) fund internships that provide promising female graduate students and professors with access to successful women scientists in your company and exposure to stimulating research activities; (2) set up mentoring programs that reach down into educational institutions; (3) collaborate with professional associations of women in science; (4) provide fellowships and seed money for research to promising women graduate students who are recruitment targets for your company; (5) provide funding for visiting lectureships for distinguished industrial scientists; and (6) provide funding for distinguished academic scientists to work with scientists in your company as "loaned academics."

For women pursuing science degrees: keep career options open; conduct information interviews with women scientists working in industry; consider applying for an internship in a corporation; and find out the representation of women scientists in the company.

Corporate Best Practices
AT&T's Graduate Fellowship Program, begun in 1975, offers educational support to women and under-represented minorities. It covers all educational expenses during the school year, a stipend for living expenses, support for attending scientific conferences, and pairs graduate students with mentors who are experienced scientists. Texas Instruments launched its Women's Professional Development Team in 1994 to increase women's representation on the technical ladder. The team established accountability for diversity by implementing annual diversity reviews of technical ladder statistics by TI's Technical Council Chair; expanded career development policies and programs, including mentoring workshops and conferences for women in technology; and increased technical training for employees.

Methodology-Catalyst first conducted focus groups with 35 women scientists at three Fortune 500 companies. Data from the focus group discussions were instrumental in devising the protocol for the individual interviews with the 30 pioneering women scientists ultimately selected for this study.
About Catalyst
Catalyst is the nonprofit research and advisory organization that works with business to advance women. For more information about Catalyst, please visit our website at or call Monica Blaizgis in the media department: 212-514-7600.

Women Scientists in Industry: Making It In Both Management and Technical Roles was sponsored by Tampax, a product of Procter & Gamble.


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