The research project Women in the Science Research Workforce (ARC LP110200480A) was designed to contribute to understanding of a ‘wicked problem’ that appears to repeat itself in successive generations of women in science — the well documented, entrenched patterns associated with women’s participation in the science research workforce. Despite the fact that outstanding women are increasingly seen achieving at the highest levels and taking key roles in the fields of science and technology women’s participation in the science research workforce continues to be characterised by low levels of retention and success beyond the post-doctoral career stage for a large number of individuals with advanced scientific qualifications.
The focus of the research is on the disciplinary fields of biological and chemistry related sciences as these two fields have experienced significant female participation up to the doctoral level for several decades, and there is evidence that female biology and chemistry doctorates take up a wide range of occupations in industry and government as well as in the science research workforce.
On the basis of the research the researchers are convinced that new employment conditions and new career paradigms are needed to reframe patterns of participation and opportunities for success for a wider range of entrants to the scientific research workforce, but to achieve this a better understanding of what opportunities exist, for whom, and in what professional contexts is necessary.
From the research we also know that there are key structural issues to be addressed.