Nobel Laureate: Fix the Scientific Career Ladder & Let Women Climb

By Andrew Moseman | December 7, 2009 3:50 pm

Eblackburn220We’ve heard (and written) plenty on the struggle of women to reach equal footing with men in the sciences. Now, two of the more prominent women in American science are talking up the issue before they accept their Nobel Prizes next week.

Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, along with a third American, Jack W. Szostak, won this year’s award in medicine for showing how chromosomes protect themselves as cells divide. Speaking in Sweden in advance of the award ceremony, Blackburn said the setup of scientific careers prevents more women from reaching the upper echelon. “The career structure is very much a career structure that has worked for men. But many women, at the stage when they have done their training really want to think about family . . . and they just are very daunted by the career structure. Not by the science, in which they are doing really well” [AP].

Noting that in some recent years just as many women as men started out in science, Blackburn argued that a few adjustments could help to even the career playing field. Blackburn said a more flexible approach to part-time research and career breaks would help women continue to advance their careers during their childbearing years. “I’m not talking about doing second-rate quality science, far from it,” she said. “You can do really good research when you are doing it part-time” [AP].

Only 10 women have won the medicine prize, and Blackburn and Greider are the first two women to share the award. Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak will split the approximately $1.4 million prize they’ll receive next week.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Scientist of the Year Notable: Elizabeth Blackburn
DISCOVER: The 50 Most Important Women in Science
80beats: And the Nobel Prize in Medicine Goes To… (On Blackburn’s team’s win)
80beats: More Evidence that Girls Kick Ass at Math, Just Like Boys

Image: Wiki Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Cory

    Lol, “give us equal credit for less work”? I’m all for equality, but that’s kind of silly. If you want the highest award a field can offer, you ought to work as hard as your competitors. Seems pretty simple.

    If women want to surpass gender roles in this area, they have to abandon domesticity. Can’t have it both ways.

  • Lab Lemming

    Is there any reason scientists shouldn’t be able to work part-time? After all, lots of people are on XX% salary from source Y and WW% from source Z, but they are never allowed to drop one of those jobs.

  • Cory

    I have no problem with scientists working part-time, but they shouldn’t expect to receive the same opportunities for promotion and reward as someone working full-time.

  • Pierre

    Cry me a river… Poor babies… Me me me me… They want equal treatment. Fine, so when do we start locking women up for murder & fraud? Terminating a pregnancy to pursue a career, emptying the pockets of naive men… It’s called murder & fraud in the world of men. It’s at best immoral and unethical, at worst criminal. And don’t get me started on their lies… Men forced to raise other people’s kids. Screw them.

  • Alan

    Oh my, 4 morons in a row. 3 of which have serious reading comprehension skills and 1 with apparent rage issues.

  • Pierre

    Thank you dear Alan for commenting my blog comment. Have a beautiful day.

  • Mariella

    Many women find it hard to fight against the expectations of society: that they must have children and stay in the home. If you choose to pursue a career instead of a family you are still seen as an anomaly. There may be equal opportunities, but it’s much harder for a woman to take advantage of it.


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