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An Exploration of Women Academic Scientists’ Experiences with Gender in North Africa and the United States

Jessica Greene, Geraldine Richmond

Abstract


This exploratory research was conducted in conjunction with a research collaboration workshop in Morocco in March, 2013 which gathered 28 women scientists from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the United States.  In-depth interviews, conducted with 14 North African and 8 American scientists, found that North African and American women scientists had very different experiences with gender in the workplace and at home.  North African women reported better representation of women in their science departments and equity in terms of salary and resources, whereas most American women felt they had to “push” to get to equality in the workplace.  North African women reported challenging relationships with their women colleagues, while American women reported seeking out women scientists for support.  At home, North African women reported having close to full responsibility for child and home care, which many said resulted in less engagement in research than their male peers and reluctance to take on leadership roles.  In contrast, American women reported something approximating an equal partnership in handling home and child responsibilities with their husbands, which they viewed as enabling their professional success.

While there has been extensive research examining women scientists’ experiences in academia in the United States and Europe, there have been few examinations of women scientists experiences in developing countries, particularly in North Africa (Bilimoria, Joy, & Liang, 2008; De Welde & Laursen, n.d.; Rees, 2001; Stockard, Greene, Lewis, & Richmond, 2008).  This study explores Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian women scientists’ experiences with gender in the workplace and at home, and contrasts their experiences with that of US women scientists.  The research was conducted in conjunction with a March 2013 research collaboration workshop in Casablanca, Morocco conducted by COACh, a US based grass-roots organization that works to improve career success for women scientists in academia. More information on COACh can be found at their website: http://coach.uoregon.edu/coach/.  

 


Keywords


Women scientists; gender; comparative study, US and North Africa.

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