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Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering
nation hampers the career advancement of women scientists andengineers with children and the minority of male scientists andengineers who bear major caregiving responsibilities. Those onhighly competitive academic career tracks are aware of these issuesand often make compromises to lessen the conflict or choose not toavail themselves of accommodations for which they are eligible,such as stopping the tenure clock or reducing work responsibilities,out of fear of damaging their career prospects. Women scientistsand engineers in fast-track positions, for example, are less likelythan those on less competitive career tracks to be married or tohave children. Those who are mothers tend to have fewer childrenthan comparable men. Furthermore, the perseverance of womenscientists and engineers is seldom perceived as evidence of the veryhigh level of devotion to their profession that it represents.
Anti-discrimination law requires universities to remedy conditions that differentially affect women’s entry into and promotionin academic scientific and engineering careers. Under recent legaldecisions, the existence of stereotyping can serve as proof of discrimination. Legal trends thus encourage institutions to reducestereotyping and also to change the institutional practices andnorms that limit women’s advancement. Other steps needed toremove barriers include documenting the status and progress ofunderrepresented groups, establishing a work environment that isexplicitly inclusive, and providing services that allow scientistsand engineers to be productive while meeting their responsibilitiesoutside of work. All those steps require leadership—and resourcecommitments—at the highest department and institutional levels.The most necessary and most difficult change is a thorough reconsideration of the long-accepted recruitment and evaluation practices implicit in the outdated academic career model.
5-1. Systematic structural constraints built into academic institutionshave impeded the careers of women scientists and engineers. A successful academic career has traditionally involved the presumption thatunlimited attention can be given to that throughout one’s life.
5-2. Deviation or delay, any substantial hiatus, or serious attention toresponsibilities outside of the academic realm have harmed facultymembers’ ability to compete successfully because it has been taken toindicate a lack of seriousness about their careers.