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Special Look

Sexism unfortunately still exists in science in the US and Europe, begins an editorial in this week's special issue of Nature. While progress has been made to combat sexism, it appears to have stalled — women in the US and Europe earn about half of all the science doctoral degrees awarded, yet make up about a fifth of full professors, the editorial adds. Practical issues like childcare likely hinder the careers of many women, but there is "a second, more insidious major problem: overt or unconscious gender bias," the editorial says.

In a separate article, Jennifer Raymond, a Stanford University neurobiologist, writes that most people associate men with science and careers and women with liberal arts and family, and points to the recent PNAS paper from Jo Handelsman at Yale University that showed that researchers were more likely to hire a male undergraduate laboratory manger over a female one, even if their CVs were identical. The female applicants were also offered a smaller salary.

"There is now sufficient evidence to move us beyond the denial phase of dealing with gender bias. Yet in talking to colleagues around the world, I find continued resistance to the idea that scientists, who take pride in being rational and objective, could be influenced by bias," Raymond says. She offers ways for researchers, and others, to work to overcome their biases, such as using a gender-blind review or to consciously mentor female scientists.

Also in Nature, Brigitte Mühlenbruch from the European Platform of Women Scientists and University of Duisburg-Essen's Maren Jochimsen write that broad changes are needed to bring equality to science. "To achieve lasting equality, science needs a culture that is sensitive to gender and diversity in all its endeavours: individual and social, structural, institutional and political," they write. "We need transparency, accountability and monitoring in decision-making, evaluation, recruitment, attribution and funding. We need to secure the interest and collaboration of highly qualified women and men by offering predictable academic careers, attractive working places and conditions that enable work and life to be reconciled."

Other aspects of the special issue focus on women in biotech, equality for female scientists around the world, equality at journals, and more.