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Women in the Science Research Workforce: What we know

Patterns of representation of women in science and technology in Australia are well documented see FASTS 2009 , and can be separated into two broad categories:

First, horizontal segregation of women in the technology disciplines based on perceptions regarding women’s innate ability in science and mathematics, societal attitudes towards gender stereotypes and gender equality, and job security and employability of graduates.

Second, in science disciplines that are characterized by high female undergraduate and postgraduate participation, vertical segregation generated by the organizational culture of the workplace through practices that disadvantage women such as work load, cultures of long hours, promotions policies and practice, lack of female role models and sponsorship, lack of accommodation of carer responsibilities and sex discrimination Morley (2013)

Data on participation in higher education graphically illustrates established patterns of low levels of participation in engineering and IT and low rates of retention and success in and beyond the post-doctoral phase for all other broad fields of science. The most frequently cited legacy of the FASTS 2009 report is the ‘scissors graph’ of Academic Profiles by Gender Natural and Physical Sciences 2007, a pattern that had changed only marginally by 2011.

The overall sustained pattern of gender inequality in the academy in Australia is consistent with the international evidence base NSF (2009) . Our American colleagues refer to this as the ‘Hidden Brain Drain’ (Hewlett et al, 2008).

For those interested in the history of women in science in Australia the Science entry in The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia is an accessible resource.