Azara Blog: UK female academic scientists

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Date published: 2005/02/19

The BBC says:

Women are more successful than men in gaining their first academic post but feel winning promotion proves more difficult, a new study says.

A University of East Anglia study shows men still occupy the lion's share of key positions in UK academic science.

Women scientists feel undervalued by colleagues and discouraged from making progress in their careers.

The study was presented to the American Advancement for the Association of Science in Washington DC on Friday.

More than 6,500 scientists from 40 UK universities and a range of publicly-funded research institutes responded to online surveys about their career experiences and perceptions.

Why is this kind of "research" funded? Note that in the first paragraph the BBC carefully offsets one fact against one opinion and the reader is obviously supposed to treat them as equally valid. This is because the required spin on the story is that women are doing worse than men, and not that men are doing worse than women (the politically correct BBC would never run the latter story). The opinion is reinforced in the third paragraph. The second paragraph is also intended to reinforce the opinion but it is trivial in that until the last ten or so years a lot fewer women were entering academic science and therefore it is not all all surprising that "key" positions (i.e. those occupied by people who have been in the field for years) are occupied by men. This is not only true for academics but for almost all professional careers. And part of the problem is not only that there was prejudice (which there was) but that women would often put home above career, and men the opposite. And as is clear from the last paragraph, the survey was not scientific, i.e. the sampling was not random, so the result is totally worthless except as a way of justifying the existence of the "researcher". It's even possible the "fact" quoted in the first paragraph is wrong, if it was based only on evidence provided by the survey. Perhaps if the UK wasted less money on sociology and spent more on science we would all be better off.

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