Because of Family Responsibilities, Women Researchers are Less Internationally Mobile Than Men, Study Shows

March 8, 2004

Brussels, 05 Mar 2004

A French survey has found that the difficulty of combining career and family roles hampers the international mobility of female researchers. Although the move to postdoc is as common for female PhD students as for males, marriage and motherhood affects the scientific productivity of women and their career advancement.

The survey stresses the need to pay particular attention to the specificities of research careers and to promote gender equalities on those aspects, and is therefore in line with a Commission communication on the careers of researchers.

'However, a more general cultural change in the scientific community seems to be needed to facilitate progress towards gender equality,' states Philippe Moguérou from IREDU, the French research institute on education.

The survey studied 504 PhD graduates in science and technology (S&T) - physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, five years after the completion of their thesis.

From the sample, more than 50 per cent of PhD graduates went on to postdoc research. Women were found to be more likely to do this than men: 69 per cent of women had one postdoc and 28 per cent held two or more compared to 53 and 17 per cent respectively for men.

However, women had a higher probability of staying in France for their studies than men. Indeed, the study found that 71 per cent of male PhD students did their postdoc abroad compared to 51 per cent of women. Women also had a lower probability of doing a postdoc in the US than in other European countries.

This, the survey found, was explained by marriage and motherhood. The 'family' variable had more influence on a women's decision on whether or not to take up a postdoc appointment abroad than for men. Indeed, although for both genders the variable 'married at the end of thesis' decreased the probability of doing a postdoc in the US by ten per cent and increased the probability of doing a postdoc in France by five percent, this effect is more noticeable for women than men. Married female PhD graduates are 16 per cent less likely to do a postdoctorate in the US compared to women who are not married.

To read the results of the survey, please visit: 05.pdf

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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