Half of female researchers in Spain believe being a woman is a career impediment, and 70 per cent of female scientists don’t think there are enough female leadership roles in the country, according to a recent gender equity report by the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Cotec Foundation.
Scientists looked at gender equality initiatives in several sectors in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and Sweden and found “far fewer resources” are dedicated to gender equity in Spain, compared to the other countries.
“In the Spanish case studies we see a constant lack of resources for this type of intervention, although expectations of real change remain high, leading to unrealistic expectations of what can actually be achieved,” said Rachel Palmén, a member of the Gender and ICT research group at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement.
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The lack of resources dedicated to Spanish workers is striking, considering the country is home to some of Europe’s leading experts in devising gender equity plans, Palmén says.
Palmén says her study disputes the widespread ideology that gender equality is as simple as having the same number of men and women working in a company.
“It’s much more than that: it also involves thinking about how institutional processes and procedures can promote or reduce gender bias.”
Past studies have shown that recruiting, retaining, and mentoring women so that they can become leaders is more likely to occur when institutions accommodate for the societal pressures women face outside of the office.
An August study published in JAMA Network Open found that in the U.S., 40 per cent of female doctors either stopped working or transitioned to part-time hours within a few years of completing their medical studies while 100 per cent of the male doctors surveyed maintained full-time hours.
“For men, the big words that jump out are financial – need money, loans. I don’t think you could even find the word child on the male one,” lead author Elena Frank, director of the Intern Health Study at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
For women, “the major factor was child-care responsibilities, balancing work and family and children,” said senior author Constance Guille, a psychiatrist at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“When we lose women in medicine, we lose the potential for them as leaders in health care.”
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The following month, the results of a four-year study were published in Cell Stem Cell, suggesting efforts to “promote and maintain” women into senior scientific roles are “largely inadequate.”
Part of the problem, the study suggests, is that institutions haven’t put in place policies that support the development of women’s careers in STEM.
“The data suggest that we are making headway,” Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist and director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan and contributing author said.
“That said, there are still many institutions that have few women in senior-most faculty positions. There also remains quite a bit of room for improvement in certain areas, including the representation of women in certain roles, such as speaking at scientific meetings.”
Promoting and retaining women isn’t just good from a moral standpoint: Research shows companies that support gender diversity are rated move favourable overall and supporting all minority groups — including white women, people of colour, individuals with disabilities, and those from the LGBTQ+ community — can help a company’s bottom line, allow employers and schools to develop untapped talent, and give institutions a competitive edge.
Thumbnail image courtesy: Unsplash/WOCInTechChat. Edited by We Rep STEM.