Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

that choice and environment are two sides of the same coin, and that researchers will not know enough about environmental constraints by interviewing individuals regarding their choices. Chubin speculated that once Abreu and colleagues establish horizontal segregation in a discipline, they will also discover that it influences the vertical trait. However, he questioned whether “discipline” is the right unit of analysis.

Abreu noted that the literature in this area is extensive. A lot of case studies have been done, especially by anthropologists examining various factors that influence choice of career. She mentioned a highly regarded Brazilian fellowship for which women are underrepresented among recipients. The question of how the fellowship is awarded has been reviewed. She cited one study that revealed that to be considered for the first level of award review women needed to publish four times as much as men, although this was a one-year contextual study. Abreu acknowledged that it is a challenge to illuminate these complex and sometimes invisible social processes.

Chubin followed up by stating that in the United States there is significantly more credibility given to choice than to environmental factors.

Abreu affirmed that it is easier to conclude that gender differences are an outcome of individuals’ choices. It is simpler to regulate solutions to choice because such conclusions do not require any structural change. Unfortunately, she stated, this belief is untrue. For example, Brazil keeps a public database of recipients’ applications. Therefore, anyone is able to compare candidates openly. Transparency is very important to this type of micro-level analysis.

Judy Franz, executive officer emeritus from the American Physical Society and the past secretary general in the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, commented that she found it most interesting to compare Germany and France, which have similar levels of women’s participation in physics, because cultural distinctions become more evident. She pointed out that questions regarding individual choice and cultural factors have been asked several times in the past.

Abreu agreed that the data are there but suggested that discussion and combating resistance must continue. This is the reason she focuses on institutional processes.

Rebecca Keiser, deputy director of Policy Integration at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) acknowledged that the Workforce Sex Segregation and Higher Education presentations raised particular issues for her. She stated that part of NASA’s challenge is the close relationship it has with certain universities. Recruitment is heavily directed toward specific university partners, especially in Florida and Houston. Consequently, the gender inequities at the university level get translated to NASA.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement