Sexist culture drives women out of science

May 11, 2008

As something of a geek, I’m a little perturbed to read this piece in the The Sunday Times, Sexist culture drives women out of science

The gist of it is that “[a] time warp of 1970s sexist attitudes is driving women in their late thirties from careers in science and technology and undermining key sectors of the economy“. It’s hard to abstract full details of the report itself, but the ST quotes the lead author of the study – Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist at the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York – as saying:

“It is the hidden brain drain. We have this amazing, talented pool of women who have left the industry. It is highly destructive to our society and economy.

The study, which will be published in the Harvard Business Review on Thursday, found that “while women made up 41% of newly qualified technical staff, more than half dropped out by the time they reached their late thirties”.

I can’t help but wonder if the study’s conclusion is a bit simplistic, to say the least. A sexist culture is only one form of discrimination faced by women at work, and I don’t see how a woman in that environment is going to be forced to choose between “family life and pushing for promotion at work”.

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Cross-posted at The F Word on 11 May 2008

©2008 Helen G

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