The consequences of the numerous hurdles for women entering science are sometimes metaphorically depicted as a “leaky pipeline.” This is the phenomenon in which fewer and fewer women are found as position rank increases – despite parity at the undergraduate levels in many scientific fields. A clear example of this is the fact that while half of chemistry bachelor degrees go to women, only a third of chemistry Ph.D. degrees are – and only a quarter move into assistant professor positions from there. The leaky pipeline phenomenon concerns many issues – from a less diverse pool of brainstormers to fewer available mentors for female students. Fortunately, the outlook is good in terms of addressing this disparity.
A new report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests hiring trends may stem the loss of female faculty. The most surprising result came from a survey of 363 tenure-tracked faculty in evaluating imaginary male and female applicants for tenure-track professorships. Both genders showed a 2:1 preference for women in both math-intensive and math non-intensive fields (excepting economics). An important takeaway from this study is that despire current disparity, right now is excellent timing for women interested in academic science careers.