Women in NeuroscienceI was flipping through the July issue of Nature Neuroscience when I came across a really interesting editorial on women in neuroscience. Seeing as I am a woman in neuroscience, I didn't hesitate in reading through the piece (if you're interested, it's a one page article in July 2006, volume 9 number 7, p. 853).
It turns out that only 1 in 5 papers published in the journal have a female corresponding author. The editors were then interested in why this is: is it 'simply' because there are less women in neuroscience as a field, or is it reflecting a societal glass ceiling?
In examining whether the author's gender correlated with their chances of publishing in NN, they found that "papers from female authors are sent for peer review and published in proportion to their representation among submission" - i.e the overall acceptance rates were statistically indistinguishable. 10.9% of papers with female authors in comparison to 11.8% with male authors were published.
However, is still stands that there are gender disparities in the demographics of neuroscientists. For example, of 940 reviewers for the journal itself, only 16.2% are female. In 2003, it was reported that 50% of neuroscience graduates were female, but only 25% of tenure-track faculty were female.
What I also found pretty discouraging is that in 1999, MIT found that female faculty had lower salaries, less space and fewer recourses than men with equivalent accomplishments in the field. A big multivariate study done in 2004 found that gender differences in career success were entirely attributable to the differential effects of marriage and family on women and men.
In other words, they found that having a family has a detrimental effect on women's careers, but not on men's careers.
I don't know how to feel in reaction to these sorts of findings anymore. I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel discouraged. I feel powerless. And then at the same time, I feel like it's irrelevant to me and my life because I'm going to succeed in whatever it is I choose to do - it's just how my life works and has always worked.
I just hope some of these numbers can help those girls and women who say "I'm not a feminist, but..." see that they can't take what they have forgranted: we still have a very long way to go.