nation hampers the career advancement of women scientists and engineers with children and the minority of male scientists and engineers who bear major caregiving responsibilities. Those on highly competitive academic career tracks are aware of these issues and often make compromises to lessen the conflict or choose not to avail 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 scientists and engineers in fast-track positions, for example, are less likely than those on less competitive career tracks to be married or to have children. Those who are mothers tend to have fewer children than comparable men. Furthermore, the perseverance of women scientists and engineers is seldom perceived as evidence of the very high 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 promotion in academic scientific and engineering careers. Under recent legal decisions, the existence of stereotyping can serve as proof of discrimination. Legal trends thus encourage institutions to reduce stereotyping and also to change the institutional practices and norms that limit women’s advancement. Other steps needed to remove barriers include documenting the status and progress of underrepresented groups, establishing a work environment that is explicitly inclusive, and providing services that allow scientists and engineers to be productive while meeting their responsibilities outside of work. All those steps require leadership—and resource commitments—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change is a thorough reconsideration of the long-accepted recruitment and evaluation practices implicit in the outdated academic career model.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 institutions have impeded the careers of women scientists and engineers. A successful academic career has traditionally involved the presumption that unlimited attention can be given to that throughout one’s life.

5-2. Deviation or delay, any substantial hiatus, or serious attention to responsibilities outside of the academic realm have harmed faculty members’ ability to compete successfully because it has been taken to indicate a lack of seriousness about their careers.

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