Brussels, 04 February 2002
Scientists in Germany have found that women rarely occupy the top positions in research because of a male work culture and informal power structures.
Women researchers from the Berlin Social science research centre (WZB) embarked on the research project at a time when women in Germany are holding increasingly fewer top research positions. Women professors currently represent 9.8 per cent of the total number, and outside universities, women occupy only 5.1 per cent of the top jobs in research institutes.
'Leadership in research continues to be a closed activity,' says Hildegard Matthies from the WZB. 'Asymmetry between career progression persists and men are far more successful in science. Two things shut women researchers out: the male work culture and informality. This male work culture knows only work responsibilities and demands a constant availability for science. It's like a race where only those who are always there can win.'
The researchers concluded that this culture disadvantages all who cannot or do not want to play by the rules, those who have other ties such as family or friends.
Informality in this context refers to the division of resources and personal promotions. 'Those who are integrated into the unofficial net get ahead much more easily,' says Ms Matthies. Entry into these informal circles and channels of information is however more difficult for women than for men, according to the research.
The results demonstrated that even though interpretations of gender vary immensely, the situation for women hardly changes. In every institute surveyed, there was a different culture, a different way of working together, and different perceptions of the way they work. One thing however remained the same: the glass ceiling cannot be broken by women, and they are found increasingly less frequently in the top jobs.
The project found a clear consistency between the sexes regarding professional ambitions and perceptions. However the interpretations of gender asymmetry in research were different. In one institute, it was declared that gender plays no role in career progression, and in another, the predominant view was that women's reproductive ability is the 'principal problem'. Another explanation was that men and women have different views on careers and different life plans.
For further information on the study, please consult the following web address: http://www.wz-berlin.de
For further information on women and science, please consult the following web address: http://www.cordis.lu/rtd2002/science-so ciety/women.htm