Even as more girls take up science and engineering and women gain a larger share of degrees in the field, they are bumping up against a glass ceiling in taking up academic careers, says a report by the National Academy of Engineering.
NAE says women earned half of all B.S. degrees in science and engineering since 2000, but hold only 25% of faculty slots at U.S. colleges and universities. “Bias and outmoded practices governing academic success impede progress almost every step of the way,” says report Chair Donna Shalala, University of Miami president.
NAE claims that at some institutions, women feel their research is devalued, pay is less and promotions slower, unrelated to productivity, significance of their work “or any other performance measures.” Among other things, NAE suggests “culture changes” on campus, including new standards for faculty recruitment and promotion, leadership roles and more outside support for women researchers.
“There is an underlying assumption that there’s not as much commitment from women as from men,” says Carrie Dossick, a PhD. civil engineer and assistant professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. She cites prior industry experience as a key factor in her pay level and school-sponsored monthly mentoring lunches for women in science fields. “We just want to play fair,” says Dossick.
“We need to allow diversity to reshape academic and business environments,” adds Jeffrey Russell, civil engineering dean at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “I have seen biases occur.”