This is the title of an article I found online, in the journal Science. Clearly, there are still issues in terms of bias against women in science/academia – and I’m sure this is not something that’s limited to science and academia. The article mentions incidents, and thankfully I have not experienced anything like that yet, and for the majority of my university life I have been looked after by female academics. And it is definitely good that there are schemes to support women in science, such as Athena Swan.
But here’s a thought: a study published in 2015, in which the authors used hypothetical applicant profiles for an assistant professorship in various fields, found that in most cases women were favoured over men. So if there is a higher preference to hire women, why is this not reflected in reality?
According to an article in the Guardian (citing an article in New Scientist), this may be due to the fact that early stages of a research career involves short-term contracts in various places; this coincides with the time when people want to have children, and the nature of these post-doc. contracts is hardly ideal for anyone wanting to settle down to start a family. Now, this would equally affect men as well as women, but further in the article it cites a study showing that men are more likely to have partners who are willing to stay at home to look after the kids while women are more likely to be with a fellow scientist. This would create a situation where women are more likely to have to choose between a family and their career, and it is a sad thought that capable young scientists are having to make this choice.
This got me thinking: is this choice something that women have to face regardless of what they do? Or is it more difficult in science? Surely there are men out there that will have to make this choice too? Personally, my main focus for the future has been a career. This does not mean that I don’t want to get married and have a family – is this something unrealistic for me to try and achieve?
I guess it’s hard for anyone to make these decisions. It took me a long time to think about what exactly I wanted to do, and it seems like I’ve ended up here without really thinking too much about what next! Right now, I am happy to be doing what I’m doing, and somehow it feels like I am where I’m meant to be right now… Doing this PhD has made me realise my passion for research, and although I have not really thought too much about what I will do after, my feeling is that it will involve research in some form or another!