Subtitled: The Advancement of Women in Science and Technology. Book published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press, written by Henry Etzkowitz, Carol Kemelgor, and Brian Uzzi. The title alludes to the Greek goddess who personified both male and female attributes to refer to the dilemma that faces women in science. Women scientists are often trapped between cultural expectations of "feminine" behaviors (such as primary caretaker of families) and professional expectations that appear more "masculine" (such as politicking and agressive research). The authors conducted surveys, interviews, and an extensive analysis of data in order to determine factors that have kept women from becoming upper level science professionals, especially at highly-ranked research universities. They reveal findings that indicate women in science are hampered by "a series of gender related barriers that persist, despite recent advances."

Thirty years ago, many people believed that the small percentage of women in top science positions was due to the small number of qualified women available. Therefore, the solution to gender imbalance was to encourage more young women to study scientific subjects in high school and college. The United States saw a blossoming of organizations and programs dedicated to cultivating girls' and young women's interests in science and mathematics in high school and college. This "supply side" solution did not produce the expected surge of female hirings, however. Even though the numbers of women graduate students and Ph.D.s has increased, the percentage of tenured women faculty at the highest levels has remained abysmally low.

Deeper reasons for the lack of female full professors include stereotyped gender roles (established as early as 3 years of age), differential educational experiences for males and females (even when they are both present in the same class), "leakage" from the pipeline at "critical transitions" (such as choosing a major professor in graduate school or deciding when to have children), social and professional isolation, and the reluctance of some academic departments to accept change.

One of the major problems experienced by women in science is exclusion from informal information networks. Because of this isolation, women are less likely to be included in study groups as graduate students, less likely to be invited to attend professional conferences, less likely to complete their degrees, less likely to find rewarding post-doctoral positions, less likely to make enduring intra- and inter-departmental contacts as young faculty members, and less likely to gain tenure, publish regularly, or attract funding than males with equivalent knowledge and skills.

In addition, women usually carry the entire burden of family obligations and they are often unwilling to sacrifice their desires to get married and have children for a difficult and uncertain career as a research professor. Whereas men are usually expected to leave all their private concerns to their wives at home in order to be free to work long hours in the lab, women scientists are not reciprocally excused from household duties in order to address demanding research and teaching loads. Fortunately, this seems to be changing for men as well as women; fewer male scientists feel willing to accept such an unbalanced lifestyle anymore, either.

The book's authors conclude by describing policies to improve the situation for women in science. They support the intent of Affirmative Action in order to establish a "critical mass" of women in science departments and thereby make the departmental atmosphere more inviting and supportive of women's (and men's) needs. They also propose reforms for hiring, retention, and tenure-granting practices that could be implemented at the department level as well as university-wide.

As a female scientist myself, I was fascinated by this book. I strongly identified with the feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and sacrifice expressed by the subjects of the study. I have felt the prejudice of my professors and coworkers that women are not suited for careers in science, or at least, not in research science, or at the very least, not in a "hard" science. Some people continue to insist that discrimination does not exist and that scientific research is a meritocracy blind to gender, but the authors of Athena Unbound and I disagree.

ISBN 0521563801 (hardback); ISBN 0521787386 (paperback)

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.