Friday, July 06, 2007

Susan Greenfield: It's Crazy to Eliminate 50% of the Science Talent

Professor of Pharmacology, Director of the Royal Institution and Baroness Susan Greenfield writes for The Guardian about "The crazy attitudes that push women out of science". She talks about some of the reasons why women leave the sciences and pinpoints the primary reason as having a child.

The main reason for departure is maternity leave. The main reason for not returning is the disincentive of a lack of structural support - both financial and social. This feeds into a range of issues, commercial, social, cultural and political.
She points out that this is an issue that government and business should be concerned about.
Now, more than ever, we are entering an era where science and technology are at the centre of society and we need the best people as scientists. We need the brightest to tackle some of the biggest problems that face society, not least pressing being environmental and medical challenges. It is crazy to eliminate 50 per cent of talent. It is also crazy to invest in educating and training people and then ignore them and their expertise in later life.
She makes several suggestions as to how the gap can be closed:
  • improve the support of mothers, including greater tolerance and flexibility in the workplace and childcare
  • push for an "end to prejudices about 'male' and 'female' courses in our schools"
She calls upon the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown to help make those changes.

In the 21st century, it is not acceptable for women to feel career and children are mutually exclusive or that they are jeopardising one if they pursue the other. But what is abundantly clear is that for too many women the notion of a 'career break' is a cruel misnomer. And if it does apply to some they are the few not the many.

This is a government that has built a reputation of working to secure life chances and a quality of life of benefit to the many, not the few. Now the new Prime Minister has a chance to make that a reality for female scientists.

As director of the Royal Institution, Greenfield chairs the panel of judges that select the recipients of the L'Oréal UK Fellowships for Women in Science.

(Comments on the article range from personal experiences to "women who want to be scientists just shouldn't have children")

, ,