L'Oréal USA, in partnership with Discover magazine, will gather experts from a number of fields to brief Congress on the struggles that female scientists encounter in pursuit of their careers. This initiative is supported by an American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS) study, which was commissioned by L'Oréal USA and found that 98% of female scientists surveyed know a female colleague who left the field due to professional barriers.
The congressional briefing, For Women in Science: 21st Century Policy & Politics, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), will be held on Sept. 23, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The panel addressing Congress will include: Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary of the US Department of Education's office of civil rights; Shirley Malcom, PhD, head of education and human resources for the AAAS; Joan Steitz, PhD, sterling professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry for Yale University; Sara Seager, PhD, Ellen Swallow Richards professor of planetary science for Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of Unscientific America and science blogger for www.discovermagazine.com.
The panel of experts will explore whether state and federal public policy are promoting or hindering the advancement of female scientists; how the broader application of Title IX has influenced women pursuing science education and careers; and whether the emphasis on gender diversity in the workplace has become mainstream in scientific disciplines. The briefing will also consider the opportunities for government, the private sector and academia to address the barriers facing women in scientific disciplines.
The study conducted by AAAS surveyed 1,300 female and male scientists who hold doctoral degrees and are registered users of Science online, including members of AAAS. Of the female scientists surveyed: 61% have personally struggled balancing life and career; 52% have experienced gender bias; 37% faced barriers in having/raising children; 50% of cited challenges with child care support as a major barrier for individuals working in the science field; 98% know a female colleague who left the science field because she encountered barriers to her professional success.
Balancing life and career and having/raising children were cited as the top two reasons why female colleagues left their science careers. Female respondents cited gender biases as the reason why female colleagues left the field (47%) almost twice as frequently as male colleagues (24%). The female scientists in the study were less likely (78%) to be married or in a long-term relationship than men (91%). Female respondents were much less likely to have children (53%) than their male counterparts who participated in the survey (77%)
"These research findings confirm that there is still a great deal of work to be done to minimize the barriers facing women in scientific disciplines," said Frederic Roze, president and CEO of L'Oréal USA, in a press release. "We believe that government, academia and the private sector all have an obligation to identify meaningful solutions that ensure future generations of women face far fewer obstacles in pursuing scientific careers."
Once a male-dominated field, cosmetic science has seen more and more women scientists emerge as chemists and formulators over the past few decades. Hopefully, L'Oréal USA and Discover magazine can address the needs of women cosmetic chemists and formulators to allow the numbers to continue to increase.