A review of causes for the relative unequal participation of women in science, engineering and technology and initiatives

Ritter, Monique (2012-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Current literature reveals that men and women do not participate in the science, engineering and technology (SET) sector on equal grounds – not qualitatively (access) or qualitatively (ease of participation). It is important that women have access to and actively participate in science; they make up more than half of the world’s population and gender equality enhances a country’s economic growth and competitiveness. Furthermore, the focus should extend further than advocating for equal access to SET to actively promoting increased participation by women. Women bring a distinctive quality to SET precisely because of their gender. They are able to increase overall SET participation numbers and positively contribute to the quality and agenda of science. This study used the pipeline theory and lifecycle approach as theoretical bases to investigate the causes for unequal participation and reviewed initiatives aimed at increasing and facilitating the participation of women in SET. Identified causes include unequal access, male-dominated nature of science, tensions of reconciling professional and private life, differences in recognition and reward, and lack of female representation in leadership. The primary methodology used was a documentary analysis study design, consisting primarily of desktop literature searches and categorization. An initiative summary framework was used to summarise and code 123 identified initiatives into an initiatives summary database. Findings were both positive and negative. The study found that women in many cases are on equal footage with their male counterparts and can manage a healthy work-life balance if provided with the necessary support but many women still describe a male-dominated work environment that is exclusionary. Findings indicate that, although decreasing, there is still gender bias in recognition and reward and that female scientists underutilise financial rewards. Women in SET do not receive equal pay for equal work and there is a distinct lack of female representation in SET leadership bodies such as academies of sciences, scientific boards and publication boards of academic journals. The most common modes of intervention are policy interventions, gender mainstreaming, advocacy and interest groups, and provision of training and support. The majority of initiatives are aimed at bringing about change at a national/policy level and are driven primarily by government and academia with academia playing an important middleman role - assisting and guiding government in the design and roll-out of policies on the one hand and meeting the human resource needs of industry on the other. Although government and academia have done well in driving initiatives that increase the participation of women in SET at both school and tertiary level, more needs to be done by industry to drive the facilitation of participation. There are very few initiatives addressing the retention of women in SET; this is linked to the lack of attention to returners as a specific target group. The study concludes that the majority of countries are succeeding in closing the participation gap in terms of access or horizontal gender equality, but that vertical segregation (focusing on recognition, reward and advancement), although acknowledged, remains a mostly unaddressed challenge.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Huidige literatuur dui daarop dat vroue en mans nie gelyke deelname geniet in die Wetenskap, Ingenieurswese en Tegnologie nie – nie kwantitatief (toegang) of kwalitatief (gemak van deelname) nie. Die belangrikheid van deelname word gesket teen die kennis dat vroue die helfte van die wêreld se bevolking verteenwoordig en dat lande wat geslagsgelykheid nastreef oor die algemeen hoër ekonomiese groei en mededingenheid toon. Die fokus in die debat gaan dus nie meer net oor die reg tot toegang nie maar ook oor aktiewe en gemaklike deelname wat vroue toelaat om juis hul unieke eienskappe na die wetenskap te bring. Die studie het die pyplynteorie en ‘n lewenssiklusbenadering as die teoretiese grondslag gebruik om die deelname van vroue in die terrein te bestudeer. Die navorsing het gepoog om die hoofoorsake vir die relatiewe ongelyke deelname van vroue in die Wetenskap, Ingenieurswese en Tegnologie te bepaal. Die hoofoorsake is geidentifiseer as ongelyke toegang, die manlik-gedomineerde aard van wetenskap, die spanning om professionele en persoonlike lewe te versoen, verskille in erkenning en beloning; en die gebrek aan vroulike verteenwoordiging in leierskap. Verder wou die studie bepaal watter inisiatiewe in gebruik is vir die uitbreiding en vergemakliking van vroue se deelname in die veld. Die hoof metodologie was ‘n dokumentêre analise studie ontwerp. ‘n Inisiatief opsommingsraamwerk is gebruik om die 123 geïdentifiseerde inisiatiewe op te som en te kodeer en is saamgevat in 'n inisiatiewe opsommingdatabasis. Bevindinge was beide positief en negatief. Die studie het bevind dat vroue in baie gevalle gelyke toegang geniet en 'n gesonde balans tussen hul persoonlike en professionele lewe kan bestuur indien die nodige ondersteuning gebied word. Baie vroue beskryf egter nog steeds 'n manlik-gedomineerde werksomgewing. Hoewel die neiging dalend is, is daar nog steeds geslagsvooroordele in erkenning en beloning en vroulike wetenskaplikes maak nie genoegsaam gebruik van finansiële belonings wat wel tot hul beskikking is nie. Vroue ontvang ook nie gelyke betaling vir gelyke werk nie. Daar is 'n duidelike gebrek aan vroulike verteenwoordiging in leierskap soos aangedui in die samestelling van akademies van die wetenskap en die bestuursrade van wetenskaplike rade en publikasie rade van wetenskaplike vaktydskrifte. Die mees algemene vorme van intervensies is beleidsintervensies, geslagshoofstroming, voorspraak en belangegroepe, en die verskaffing van opleiding en ondersteuning. Die meerherheid van inisiatiewe is daarop gemik om verandering teweeg te bring op nationale en beleidsvlak en word hoofsaaklik gedryf deur die staat en die akademie. Die akademie speel dan ook ‘n belangrike middelman rol deurdat hul aan die een kant die regering bystaan in die implementering van beleid en aan die anderkant ook die menslike hulpbron behoeftes van industrie moet voed. Daar is ‘n leemte by die meerderheid van inisiatiewe in die aanspreek van die behoeftes van vroue wat wil terugkeer na die veld na ‘n periode van afwesigheid en aan die retensie van vroulike wetenskaplikes. Die studie kom dus tot die gevolgtrekking dat die meerderheid van lande en inisiatiewe daarin slaag om meer gelyke deelname in terme van toegang of horisontale geslaggelykheid te bewerk, maar dat vertikale segregasie (met ‘n fokus op erkenning, belong en bevordering), nog heelwat aandag moet geniet.

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