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Breaking into the Lab: Engineering Progress for Women in Science and Technology

Sue V. Rosser


Although the overall percentage of women receiving degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields has increased in the US during the last three decades, the data mask wide variance among fields. Responses of over 300 current women scientists who were National Science Foundation Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education (POWRE) awardees—both junior and senior—document that despite the increases, many of the same issues for women persist today, although the obstacles or expression of experiences may differ slightly. Balancing career and family, time management, isolation, lack of camaraderie, poor mentoring, issues experienced by dual career couples, as well as gaining credibility and respectability from colleagues and superiors in science remain problematic. Additionally, sexual harassment and gender discrimination still occur too frequently. Data from interviews of current scientists reveal what happens to successful women as they become senior and consider going into administration, and whether women are excluded from leading edge work in the commercialization of science and technology transfer. Since the focus of scientific research globally has shifted from basic to applied research and innovation, the dearth of women receiving patents suggests a new twenty-firstcentury face on the old story of women’s exclusion from the leading edge of science.  



academic women scientists; POWRE; STEM; technology transfer; worklife balance; dual career couples

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