Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Friday, 18 February 2005

Female scientists 'undervalued'

Woman scientist
Women scientists feel undervalued and discouraged, the report says

Women are more successful than men in gaining their first academic post but feel winning promotion proves more difficult, a new study says.

A University of East Anglia study shows men still occupy the lion's share of key positions in UK academic science.

Women scientists feel undervalued by colleagues and discouraged from making progress in their careers.

The study was presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC on Friday.

More than 6,500 scientists from 40 UK universities and a range of publicly funded research institutes responded to online surveys about their career experiences and perceptions.

Replies revealed that a higher proportion of men than women took the top jobs.

We have to ask if women do not notice the tap on the shoulder or whether for them the encouragement is indeed absent
Jan Anderson, University of East Anglia

Many scientists felt that active encouragement to go for a post or take responsibility was a major factor in seeking promotion but more than 50% of women said they did not receive this backing.

Significantly lower percentages of women than men feel their departments value their contributions.

Collaborative research

Women are more successful at achieving a post on their first application, yet 44% of them feel disadvantaged in terms of promotion.

Only 14% of men believe women are disadvantaged in terms of promotion. Fewer women are actively involved in research and speaking at conferences and this is seen as a barrier to promotion.

Jan Anderson, from the University of East Anglia, said: "We know encouragement breeds success. But we have to ask if women do not notice the tap on the shoulder or whether for them the encouragement is indeed absent.

"Results will enable universities and policy makers to focus on areas of change that will improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of women scientists."

The research is in collaboration with the Athena Project which was set up in 1999.

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