Women scientists are more ambitious than men, but lack support, finds study

February 23, 2005

Brussels, 22 Feb 2005

A study carried out in the UK suggests that women scientists are more ambitious than their male counterparts, but feel they lack the support and encouragement needed to progress in their careers.

According to the study, some 68 per cent of women professors have ambitions of being the head of a research group, compared with only 29 per cent of male professors. Similarly, 36 per cent of women senior lecturers wish to enter into senior management, compared to only 29 per cent of men.

There appears to be a huge difference in the degree of support offered to ambitious men and women scientists, however. Some 41 per cent of male senior lecturers questioned claimed that they had been encouraged to apply for more senior posts, compared with only per cent of their female colleagues.

'These preliminary findings dispel any ideas that women are less ambitious to succeed in science than their male counterparts,' said Caroline Fox, manager of the Athena programme, which carried out the survey in cooperation with the University of East Anglia. 'Those women professors who are already doing well are clearly far more driven than the men they work alongside, and this may be part of why they are already doing well. But the sad fact is that those further down the scale are still not rising to more senior positions with the same frequency as men, despite a clear desire to do so.'

The survey also found other examples of women scientists receiving little encouragement. Fewer than 50 per cent of the women participating in the survey felt they had been given the opportunity to serve on important departmental committees, while more women than men reported feeling that their contributions are not valued by their department.

More detailed results from the project will be available later in the year. More than 6,500 scientists working in 40 UK universities and a range of publicly funded research institutes responded to the survey.

For further information on the Athena project, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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