role underlying this bias is both prescriptive and descriptive, demanding from women such traits as subservience and caring, thereby limiting their ability to be perceived as effective in traditionally male roles.
Several panelists—including Ginther, Yu Xie, Robert Drago, Joan Williams, and Angelica Stacy—examined the factors that affect career trajectories in science and engineering.
Since the 1970s, there has been tremendous growth in the overall number of bachelor’s and doctorate degrees awarded to women, but Ginther showed that women’s representation is dependent upon field. In the physical sciences and engineering, women earn no more than 20% of the doctorate degrees, while in social sciences and biology women earn no less than half of doctorates.
Independently, panelists found that the factor most detrimental to career progression was family status. Their data indicated that married women scientists are disadvantaged, particularly if they have children: they are less likely to pursue careers in science and engineering even with an advanced degree, they are less likely to be in the labor force, they are less likely to be promoted, and they are less likely to be geographically mobile.
Married men with young children are 50% more likely to enter tenure-track jobs than comparable women, said Stacy. Ginther presented data showing that regardless of field, young children significantly decrease the likelihood of women—but not men—in obtaining a tenure-track job.
Fiske presented data showing that American culture in general strongly stereotypes caregiving—whether of children, the elderly, or sick or disabled family members—as work appropriate to females. As described above, several panelists independently identified motherhood as the factor most likely to keep a woman with science training from pursuing or advancing in a scientific career.
Scientists are generally well aware of the bias against caregiving, and those seeking fast-track academic careers use a number of strategies to avoid damage to their careers by caregiving responsibilities, said Robert Drago. Bias avoidance disproportionately affects those who shoulder primary caregiving responsibilities. What Drago termed productive bias avoidance involves minimizing family commitments that interfere with career progress. The most obvious methods are to avoid marriage or delay having children. What Drago termed unproductive bias avoidance involves efforts to deflect attention from the family responsibilities that a person in fact carries. For example, faculty members may decline opportunities to reduce their workload or to take parental leave in order to appear dedicated to their careers.