'Male club' spoils sexual chemistry for women

March 3, 2000

A "male club" mentality in many university chemistry departments is one factor preventing women pursuing academic careers, according to a report published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The research reveals that in 1997, 37 per cent of chemistry undergraduates were women. This declined to 33 per cent of postgraduates, 16 per cent of staff and less than 1 per cent at the professorial level.

The research suggested that attitudes played a major role in persuading female chemists to abandon the field. Men felt chemistry was a "hard-edged discipline not emotionally suited to women", while women themselves tended to doubt their own ability and expected to be treated unfairly.

In addition, a lot were put off by the isolation of large departments with male-dominated socialising, aggressive competition between groups to publish results first and the long hours and poor conditions encountered in many laboratories.

"Women suggested that some chemistry departments function largely as a male club, with promotion depending more on an individual's fit with the current culture than on transparent assessment criteria," the report stated.

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