Researchers at Cornell University say overt discrimination against female scientists in hiring, publishing and funding when competing against an equally qualified male is largely a thing of the past, a study published in the journal Nature said Monday.
Rather, compromises between pursuing a career and raising a family, coupled with gender expectations that can influence professional choices at a young age, are more likely to account for the shortage of women in some fields, the researchers say.
The study by Cornell psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams contrasts with reports that suggest overt discrimination remains a significant problem.
"There are constant and unsupportable allegations that women suffer discrimination in these arenas, and we show conclusively that women do not," Williams says.
Female researchers fall behind their male counterparts in professional advancement because of a broader set of societal realities, especially concerning family formation and child rearing, Ceci and Williams say.
Motherhood can make women less likely to choose research careers than male scientists of equal ability, or lead them to choose academic positions with larger teaching loads but more regular hours, sacrificing time for research, they say.