Gender Equality Remains An Illusion For Women In Science, Study Says

November 04, 1998

If you are a woman scientist or engineer working in an organization portraying itself as "gender neutral," it's still best to act like a man if you want to get ahead, according to a new research study.

In "Women's Science: Learning and Succeeding from the Margins," to be published this month by the University of Chicago Press, education Professor Margaret Eisenhart of the University of Colorado at Boulder and co-author Elizabeth Finkel studied four places where a high percentage of women are involved in learning or pursuing a career in science. Finkel is a former professor at the University of Michigan now teaching high school science in Berwick, Maine.

The four locations were a non-profit conservation corporation, a politically active environmental group, a graduate-level engineering program and an elective high school genetics class. Female participation in the four programs ranged from 26 percent to 50 percent.

The gender gap among scientists and engineers is well documented. Although the percentages of girls and women studying math and science rose in the 1980s, women remain well below men in most fields. In addition, increases posted in the 1990s have slowed, and in some cases reversed, Eisenhart said.

Figures on women employed as scientists or engineers are even more discouraging, she said. Even controlling for years in the workforce, women find fewer jobs, advance more slowly and earn less money.

In fact, the authors wanted to include a research laboratory or academic department at a major research university with a substantial percentage of women in the natural or physical sciences but were unsuccessful in finding one. Places where women's numbers are substantial are in organizations outside of laboratories and universities -- organizations that offer significantly less pay, security and prestige, Eisenhart said.

Women in these organizations are very successful at doing science, yet they receive little public attention for their accomplishments. The organizations tended to work on solutions to particular problems rather than doing basic research.

For example, problems included how to remodel a historic building to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act while maintaining its historic character or how to preserve a threatened habitat in the face of local resistance.

Though the women working on these problems were successful at science and were rewarded about the same as men, Eisenhart also found that "they do well only to the extent that they act like prototypical white, male employees."

"When jobs require long and unpredictable hours, travel alone, out-of-town trips and last-minute meetings -- all of which are characteristic of high-paying, high-status jobs in this country -- the work world is not gender neutral," Eisenhart said. "These job requirements assume that someone else is available to take care of children, sick parents and household chores. They also assume that there is no need for special concern about personal safety in unfamiliar public places."

Women managers made no difference. In one instance involving door-to-door canvassing, for example, women who were concerned about their safety were told by their female supervisor that they could not work in pairs.

Men who raised the same concerns in these organizations also had difficulties, suffering a loss of prestige, being cut out of decisions and attracting questions about how serious they were about their careers, she said.

The irony is that women were attracted to these jobs in the first place because the high percentages of women seemed to indicate better job possibilities than in other organizations, and because older employees described the work as "gender neutral" or not favoring or discriminating on the basis of gender.

"Gender neutrality existed in these organizations only in the weak sense that women and men faced the same requirements and obstacles," Eisenhart said. "In a more importance sense, it did not exist: Acting like a prototypic man was expected; acting like a woman was not."
Contact: Margaret Eisenhart, 303-492-8583
Peter Caughey, 303-492-4007

University of Colorado at Boulder

Related Household Chores Articles from Brightsurf:

Cut chores and kill chill time: new advice to boost children's academic achievement
Determining a child's best daily balance of sleep, activity and relaxation can be a challenge, but if you're hoping to improve their academic results, then it's time to cut back on chores and chill time, according to new research from the University of South Australia.

Liver cancer diagnoses and deaths impacted by geography and household income
An analysis of information from a large U.S. cancer database indicates that patients with liver cancer from rural regions and lower income households often have more advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis and face a higher risk of death compared with other patients.

Women's communication shapes division of labor in household
For many couples, COVID-19 quarantine has shattered the normal routine and led some to renegotiate who does what around the house.

Showing robots how to do your chores
By observing humans, robots learn to perform complex tasks, such as setting a table.

Household chemical use linked to child language delays
Young children from low-income homes whose mothers reported frequent use of toxic chemicals such as household cleaners were more likely to show delays in language development by age 2, a new study found.

Association of household with risk of first psychiatric hospitalization in Finland
National registry data forĀ 6.2 million people in Finland from 1996 to 2014 were used to examine how household income was associated with risk for a first admission to a psychiatric hospital for treatment of a mental disorder.

Husbands' stress increases if wives earn more than 40 per cent of household income
Husbands are least stressed when their wives earn up to 40% of household income but they become increasingly uncomfortable as their spouse's wages rise beyond that point.

Knowing your neighbors may shape US household yard care practices
Neighbor peer pressure may be linked to increases in yard fertilization and irrigation across several distinct climate regions of the US, according to a study published Nov.

Childhood chores not related to self-control development
A University of Houston psychologist is reporting that although assigning household chores is considered an essential component of child-rearing, it turns out they might not help improve children's self-control.

Household bleach inactivates chronic wasting disease prions
A 5-minute soak in a 40% solution of household bleach decontaminated stainless steel wires coated with chronic wasting disease (CWD) prions, according to a new study published in PLOS One.

Read More: Household Chores News and Household Chores Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to