Scientist seeks to halt exodus of women from science careers

Lecture at WVU Health Sciences open to public

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Even though men and women earn graduate degrees in the sciences in equal numbers, more than half of women ultimately leave the field – whether they work at universities or in the private sector, studies show.

In a lecture open to the public, retired biochemist Phoebe Leboy, Ph.D., president of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), will speak on “Retaining Women in Academic Science.” The talk is at noon Monday (Oct. 20) in the Okey Patteson Auditorium at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.

According to the Center for Work-Life Policy, which conducted one of the studies, the top reasons women drop out are long hours coupled with a tough culture. Quoted by ABC news, the center described the work environments as “hostile macho cultures — the hard hat culture of engineering, the geek culture of technology or the lab culture of science.”

Leboy recently surveyed basic science departments in medical schools, learning that almost half of the top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded academic health centers had no women among their junior tenure-track faculty in their biochemistry and cell biology departments.
“Looking at such statistics, a young woman might get the impression that her shot at the faculty positions at these schools would be difficult, if not out of reach,” she writes. “When I surveyed the schools, Harvard Medical School had 23 tenure-track faculty members in its cell biology and biochemistry/ molecular pharmacology departments, but none were women (since then, two women have joined the ranks). Why are so few women making it onto the tenure ladder at major medical schools?”
Once they climb the ladder, both women and men may find the view is not so hot.
Leboy told ABC News, “American men are increasingly not wanting to take on these extreme jobs either, particularly as they are sharing home and family responsibilities with their partners. This is why you see large companies calling for relaxing H1B visa limits to bring in more professionals because the amount of work-per-dollar-paid just doesn't look attractive to Americans anymore."

Leboy received her Bachelor of Science degree from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. degree from Bryn Mawr College and post-doctoral training at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. She began her career as a post-doctoral student at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania. She then moved to Penn’s School of Dental Medicine to help establish its new biochemistry department, becoming professor of biochemistry in 1976.

Leboy is also scheduled for two events on Monday on the downtown campus of WVU:

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
AWIS informal discussion with graduate and undergraduate students
325 Brooks Hall
Open to WVU campus community.

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
“AWIS Best Practices for Recruitment and Retention of Faculty”
325 Brooks Hall
Open to faculty and administrators of WVU.

For more information about these events, contact Amy Keese, post-doctoral research associate, at 304-282-3527 or via e-mail at Amy.Keese@mail.wvu.edu.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 10-16-08

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