It's taking me a while to read through the whole report recently released by the NAS on the lack of women scientists and engineers, but I like what I've read so far (I am part way through Chapter 3). Even though the results are mostly obvious to women who are already deep into a career as a scientist or engineer, it's still nice to see it written out.
For example, this is what I and others who have commented on my blog have been talking about recently:
".. on average, people are less likely to hire a woman than a man with identical qualifications, are less likely to ascribe credit to a woman than to a man for identical accomplishments, and when information is scarce, will far more often give the benefit of the doubt to a man than to a woman. Although most scientists and engineers believe that they are objective and intend to be fair, research shows that they are not exempt from those tendencies."
Will anyone recognize themselves in this and change their wayward and discriminatory behavior? I do not believe so. I do have some hope, however, that the recommendations that administrators and funding agency directors take specific actions might have some effect, especially if there is accontability and if there are more women in these positions.
So, overall, I like the report very much. I like seeing forceful statements and calls to action. And graphs. I really like graphs, even when they are scary.
It is a weird feeling to see that I belong to such an exclusive set: in my field, < 5% of full professors at research universities are women (and the number is lower at my university). I participated in the survey that went into the database that is graphed, so I really am in there. Does that mean there is something strange and/or lucky about me that got me here? I use the word lucky to indicate that I really do love my job, however much time I spend dealing with (and complaining about) obstacles and jerks. I am really not a very aggressive or competitive person, so am not especially 'male' in my personality. I can be quite assertive (which I think is more elegant than being aggressive), and I love research and teaching, so I have never been (too) tempted to give up. And I've been lucky.
8 months ago