The talk was engaging and interesting, illustrating the facts about a lack of women in higher academia and highlighting some of the information regarding why the current state of affairs may exist. She presented work that both startled and shocked me, particularly the fact that women who have kids and stay in science are no worse off than those that forego having children If anything some of the work showed that the women who do not have children are worse off. She highlighted that even in socially progressive countries like Sweden women are under-represented, Sweden has a lower percentage of women in high ranking positions than the US (which has a worse reputation for social progressive policies). The main take away message from her talk was that a large factor in this is the inherent bias that both men and women have against women. These innate stereotypes, which may be culturally induced, have the ability to influence our abilities and our decisions when making decisions about who to employ. These biases don't have to be big, a bias of 1% can lead to a large shift in sex ratios at higher levels.
But all is not lost, the more people know about these problems the more can be done to remedy them. Hopefully in the future policies that exclude sex from application forms and the increased exposure of high quality female scientist can lead to a more representative academic population. (And if 68% of biology undergrads are female, should 68% of tenured professors also be female..... food for thought).
Here are some papers that Prof Zuk presented results from:
Moss-Racusin et al (2012) Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. PNAS 109: 16474-16479 http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.short
Lincoln et al (2011) Scholars' awards go mainly to men. Nature. 469:472
Wold, A., & Wennerås, C. (1997). Nepotism and sexism in peer review.Nature, 387(6631), 341-343.
Anyone who gets to see Prof Zuk at ASAB on Friday is in for a treat, great speaker!