Women in Science Part 2

As a woman working in science, last week came with 2 contradictory (to me at least) news. The first one was in La Presse: 2 women researchers quit the jury of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame after, for the second year in row, none of the nominees was a woman. There had been campaigns all through the year to call for nominees, encouraging them to be sexually diverse. There are presently 60 "Canadian scientists, engineers and innovators recognized in the Hall of Fame"...only 9 of them are women.

On the other hand, through the Nature podcast, I heard about a new study where apparently "leading scientists favour women in tenure-track hiring test". This has the caveat that the study was made with hypothetical job seekers. Now, I looked at the original article, and I didn't see (maybe I missed it) if the people questioned knew that these where hypothetical. As the discussion piece from Nature points out, this is all good but before getting to tenure-track, you need to be hired and considered for several position (junior investigator, senior investigator, etc). Last summer, Current Biology presented a mathematical model that would calculate the odds of a scientist to become a PI. From the beginning, being a male scientist gives you 12% more chance of getting the position.

When I first started my undergrad program in Colombia, I remember thinking that the group that started with me was more or less 50-50 in gender representation. As we continued on our 5 year program, I noticed that the group shifted to more women than men. Reading about this, at least in biology, it's not rare that this is the case. However, when you look at faculty positions, considering how many of us are still in academia (or even want to stay in academia in the long run), the proportions once again have shifted.

I'm someone who thinks that you should be hired based on your qualifications, independent of your gender, sexual orientation, race or whatever other divide you might choose. I've seen in the past 6 years in my institute that the amount of women PI double which is great, but they are still under 35% of the professorial body. I do believe there are good news if in these hypothetical hirings, women are being considered at least as much depending on the field as their male counterparts. However, it shocks me when knowing the amount of women that go into science and knowing how many of them have made huge contributions in their fields, that there still seems to be a problem finding at least 1 woman "worth" nominating for the Hall of Fame.

I could now write about those times where I received comments about my performance in the field related to being a woman and not about my performance per se. But that would be a whole different post, even more so if I add stories from other women around me. Either way, the objective of this point is not to tell you that there is still a gender gap because you already know that. The whole point is that I want to stretch the fact that there are incredible researchers out there that happened to be women, and that it shouldn't be so hard to find them, if indeed academia is having a change of heart in gender representation.

What do you guys think? Who would you nominate for the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame? I am going to go with Connie J Eaves (PhD, FRSC). Maybe we can get a list ready for next year?

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