Women in science are discriminated against

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October 17 2022 | Due to high work pressure, poor work-life balance, excessive overtime and the negative effects of strong competition, women leave science earlier than men. In the meantime, temporary contracts are only increasing.

Although men also have to contend with and experience this, it is more dangerous for women, according to a study commissioned by the OCW. This was developed in response to a parliamentary proposal by Kirsten van den Hul (PvdA) and Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks). Factors that reinforce negative experiences, for example, work pressure or job insecurity are organizational culture and interpersonal relationships with others within the organization.

Women suffer more from competition

The main reason for leaving science for both men and women is the need to find a work-life balance. What has an additional reinforcing effect on women when leaving science is the high level of competition and the resulting work habits. The negative impact of overtime, although widely mentioned in the survey by both men and women, is often mentioned by the women interviewed in the context of this male norm: (male) colleagues who send emails or expect to work outside normal working hours.

High competition in the sector and a narrow evaluation system create imbalances in the standing of successful scientists in senior positions and those below them.

political games

Examples of imbalance, say the researchers, include a high degree of hierarchy, political games, a perceived need to leave personal circumstances at home and, if necessary, competition at the expense of others. Although there is no direct explanation for the fact that women working on temporary contracts are more likely to mention these factors, they are likely to be more aware of these cultural aspects, either because they come into contact with them more often or because they want to. Go to academia. It makes these factors more relevant.

Women with a permanent contract feel more secure and often dare to make a mark on their organization. The report also shows that discrimination due to pregnancy is rarely recognized as such, even though more than a quarter of working and job-seeking women who have had a child say their pregnancy and maternity negatively affect their science work.

Women are more likely to be treated unequally

Thus, women working on temporary contracts are more vulnerable to unequal treatment and discrimination. Compared to women with permanent appointment, they more often describe organizational culture and research culture in a negative sense, specifically in the context of pregnancy or having children.

The interplay of factors is shown here: sectoral characteristics of a high workload and a high degree of competitiveness along with the social tendency that women often take on more care-related responsibilities. This combination can make it difficult for the average woman to survive and thrive in science. Researchers say an increase in the number of permanent contracts will make it more attractive for women to stay in science.

The stigma is gone

To reverse the tide of gender discrimination in science, researchers have come up with a number of policy proposals. For example, there should be more parental leave for both men and women. If men were also able to take more paternity leave, the stigma against women as primary care recipients would disappear and the basis for this discrimination would be removed.

Other policy proposals include limiting competition in science, modifying the evaluation system, which is currently attracting a lot of publishing interest, and severely limiting the number of temporary contracts.

Temporary contracts keep increasing

However, recently answered parliamentary questions show that the number of temporary contracts is only increasing, despite all kinds of agreements in collective labor agreements in recent years.

Direction and leadership are also essential in addressing the declining work culture in science. Another suggested measure is to match more senior executives with younger female scientists, so that they better understand what a young woman in science is facing and can help with.

Many scholars also experience a lack of transparency about evaluation and promotions within organizations as a problem. When the evaluation criteria, the formation of evaluation committees and the evaluation process itself are prepared more clearly and systematically, this will increase the transparency of the process. Transparency about pay levels and pay raises is also a frequently cited measure – both in the literature and in interviews – to provide insight into where differences exist among academic staff.

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