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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 18:05 GMT
Women scientists 'losing out'
Greenfield, BBC
Well known from her Brain Story series on the BBC
Britain's scientific establishment is guilty of institutionalised sexism, says the leading brain researcher Baroness Greenfield.

Her criticism is contained in a report she has just handed to the government on the role of women in science, engineering and technology.


We identified this nebulous idea that many women felt they were bullied

Baroness Greenfield
"It isn't so much that people are rude to your face, more a feeling that there is a prejudice at a very basic level," she writes in an accompanying article in New Scientist magazine.

"Assumptions are made about you and your competence solely because you are a woman."

Professor Greenfield believes a special panel should be established to advise ministers on gender issues. She wants them to do more to help female scientists retrain and find jobs after having a baby.

Mindset change

The professor admitted that changing people's, and particularly male, attitudes would not be easy.

She told the BBC: "We identified this nebulous idea that many women felt they were bullied, that they didn't feel part of the culture, that they weren't one of the lads.

"What we've tried to do in this report is make a start - by suggesting actionable points so that gradually we can infiltrate and change the mindset."

One suggestion to address the problem was the creation of an information "hub" providing head-hunters and search committees with a wider range of applicants for jobs than they currently use.

But Professor Greenfield said women themselves could do more to improve matters by showing that they had the confidence to be successful.

"I'm not suggesting that women should become more like men. It's more about women having confidence in themselves."

Greater flexibility

The report by Baroness Greenfield was produced at the request of the Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt.

Ms Hewitt said: "Successful British companies increasingly depend on the strength of their scientific and technological expertise - and we are obviously missing out on a huge pool of talent with so few women currently taking up these professions.

"We will study the report carefully, and expect to publish a full response to the recommendations shortly."


Greater flexibility in the workplace is the key to retaining many excellent women scientists

Prof Dame Julia Higgins
The UK's academy of science, the Royal Society, also welcomed the report and urged the government to act on it.

Professor Dame Julia Higgins, vice-president and foreign secretary of the society, said: "We particularly welcome the proposal to create incentives for part-time work and job-sharing.

"Many women leave science because they are forced to choose between a career and a family. Greater flexibility in the workplace is the key to retaining many excellent women scientists.

"We back the proposal to bring together, through one main centre, all of the many and varied groups working to promote women in science. This would provide new impetus to the efforts of all the organisations and their initiatives, and reduce the amount of needless duplication."

Established name

Baroness Susan Greenfield is one of the UK's most prominent female scientists.

In 2000, she presented a major six-part TV series on the brain and mind, broadcast on BBC Two. She appears regularly in the media, talking about her particular field of research and science in general.

She is currently a senior research fellow at Lincoln College, and an honorary fellow at St Hilda's College, Oxford.

In 1998, she was appointed director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a post she holds jointly with her chair in Oxford.

To date she has published about 150 peer-reviewed papers.

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Baroness Greenfield
The career structures in science do not help women
See also:

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18 Jul 00 | Health
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