Czech women turned off scientific careers: sociologist

Illustrative photo: CTK

While the number of female university graduates has been increasing in recent years, the number of women involved in scientific research has been going down. In fact, in 2014, it reached its lowest level since 2001, a little over 27 percent, according to the annual report of the National Contact Centre for Gender and Science.

Marcela Linková, photo: Šárka Ševčíková
I asked the centre’s coordinator, Marcela Linková, about the factors behind the development:

“I have to say that we lack a comprehensive research that would answer your question in simple terms. But what we can say is that there are barriers at the cultural, institutional and individual level.

“What this means is that women are faced with very unfavourable conditions on the academic labour markets in terms of combining careers in research and parenthood, but also in terms of promotion to higher academic positions.

“And on the individual level there is a certain tendency for women to opt out of career roads, partially because the conditions and the barriers are so difficult to overcome.”

Another thing your report mentions is the so-called gender segregation in different fields of research. What exactly does that mean?

Illustrative photo: CTK
“Simply put, women and men tend to be employed in different sectors of research, so typically we would find men predominantly in technical sciences and engineering and some fields of natural sciences whereas women would be more represented in medical sciences, in some areas of social sciences and some areas of humanities.

“This goes to the segregation in educational career paths. We are basically dealing in research with tendencies that get set already in secondary educational level, where women and men tend to be pushed to different areas.”

At the same time I believe the number of female students has increased even in scientific areas…

“It is absolutely true, and the increases are substantial but there is still a long way to go to reach parity in technical science and engineering.”

Among the goals of the national policy of research, development and innovation is to increase the number of women involved in scientific research. How can that be done?

“I think that the government and more importantly research institutions and universities need to start taking pro-active approach, because up to now the agenda has not even been on the table.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
“We can use examples from other countries of Europe and start implementing so-called structural change which would first of all look at how research and teaching assessment procedures are set to eliminate gender bias, how career advancement is structured and conditions for work life balance are ensured.

“So there are numbers of tried measures that can be implemented and the question is whether research institutes and universities will be willing to go into this, basically.”