WIPR Influential Women in IP 2019
strong mentors throughout my research career,
both men and women. They have been (and
are) instrumental in my career progression,”
Recruitment is the first challenge companies and
institutions face. Charman-Anderson believes that
companies need to consider the way they recruit
and whether this is excluding women.
“It may not be a conscious decision, but if a
website’s iconography is male-centric and features
male-centric language in the job advert, you’re less
likely to recruit a woman,” she explains.
Scientists at the University of Waterloo, Duke
University and Princeton University found that
job ads in male-dominated fields tended to use
masculine-coded words such as “competitive” and
“dominate” much more than job ads in femaledominated
fields, and these wording differences
affected the job’s appeal.
The pipeline continues to leak post-recruitment,
particularly during motherhood.
“For too long, motherhood has been a choice
that professional women make to the detriment
of their careers,” warns Bryan, adding that until
parental leave is seen as of equal importance and a
job that requires the presence of both mother and
father, no progress will be made.
This sentiment is echoed by others and El-Imam
tells a similar story. In Nigeria, women have three
months of maternity leave; for men, paternity leave
is still a “mirage”, which heightens the difficulty.
“Women are still finding their feet in Nigeria.
After a long day in the lab, you come home and
have to fulfil all your domestic duties, including
childcare, without complaint. You have no energy
left to apply for grants, so we’re facing these
invisible barriers,” she says.
To break down these barriers, particularly when
women return to work after having a child, other
policies such as flexible working (which can benefit
men too) need to be introduced.
“Policies like this really change how women
perceive their value in the workplace. If employers
don’t make changes to help you, it suggests that
you’re not valued. It costs $20,000 to $30,000
to replace a staff member, along with a loss of
institutional knowledge. Wouldn’t it be much
cheaper to have a flexible work-from-home policy?”
Outside company policies, Thompson calls for
more female-friendly investors. She suggests that
investors are likely to invest in people who are
similar, and since many investors are white and
male, this presents yet another barrier for women.
Funding plays a role in other forms. According
to El-Imam, there’s a severe infrastructural deficit
in Nigeria and Africa generally.
In many cases, universities lack the instruments
and equipment required to undertake experiments.
on-year increase dropped below 5% for the first time
in eight years in 2018.
Only 40% of the 53 STEM companies in the
FTSE 100 have met the target of 33% women on
their boards. While it’s a sizeable increase over the
26% of STEM companies who had managed it last
year, only 9% of the women on FTSE 100 STEM
boards are in executive positions, which again raises
the issue of role models.
A dirty word
Entry into a STEM field is just one chapter in
the story—retaining women in the industry is a
completely different matter.
There’s no simple answer to why women leave
STEM, warns Shari Gallop, senior lecturer at the
University of Waikato, New Zealand.
“It’s a complex issue and sometimes it’s hard to
pinpoint exactly the reasons even for individuals
because it’s not always a ‘big event’ that causes this.
It can sometimes be from the slow additions of
many seemingly small events,” she says.
Many of the women interviewed for this
piece suggested they had experienced some
uncomfortable situations throughout the careers,
from being told they ‘looked sexy in overalls’ by a
mentor to being asked to serve refreshments by a
junior colleague, despite being the one of the most
senior people in the room.
A “boy’s club” culture was brought up by some. El-
Imam says: “Men have more informal opportunities to
lobby and show their competence among peers while
women don’t have as much opportunity to do so.
Since women are not very visible, they might
not even be remembered for appointments into
positions they are competent for.”
Gallop is a founding member of Women in
Coastal Geoscience & Engineering (WICGE), a
global network which collected data from 2016 to
evaluate gender representation in the industry.
The results were not surprising. Women represent
30% of the CGE workforce and, while female
representation on societies’ steering committees
represented this average, the proportion of women
varied from 6% to 55% between the committees.
Female representation on CGE editorial boards
and conference organising committees was below
the 30% mark, with women representing 30% or
more on only four of the 25 journals focused on.
The survey also looked at perceptions and
experiences of gender representation. Gallop adds:
“We found that exclusion from field/boat work was
a big issue, and during such work, harassment and
microaggressions were a common theme.”
Despite these issues, all interviewees were
positive about the work they were doing in their
fields, with some noting that they had received
valuable mentoring and support from men.
“I have been lucky that I have had some very
men and women
take to solve
Li Jingmei, Genome Institute of
Women in STEM
For too long,
been a choice
women make to
the detriment of
Kerrine Bryan, Butterfly Books