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Approaching gender equity in academic chemistry: lessons learned from successful female chemists in the UK

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Abstract

The internationally acknowledged gender gap in science continues to be an unrelenting concern to science educators; aggregate data in the UK show that both recruitment and retention of women in academic science remain relatively low. Most published research focuses on women in the broad field of science, generates correlations or predictions, or examines the reasons why women do not participate in fields like physics or engineering. Previous work has not yet addressed how women have found ways to succeed in particular fields, such as chemistry, or how successful pathways may be applied to recruitment and retention efforts in those fields. This study investigated the experiences of successful British female chemists, in order to uncover coping mechanisms and commonalities that may illuminate obstacles and solutions particular to women in chemistry. Four case study semi-structured life history interviews with highly successful British female chemists revealed common experiences that helped the women in the study to succeed. Of these, two resonated with the literature: having an integrated support network, and the ability to cope with financial and career instability; choice of subfield and adaptation of (unconscious) bias are offered as new insights. The findings suggest changes in policy and practice that would provide particular kinds of support for women in chemistry at school and university level. Implementing these changes may be the impetus needed to approach gender parity in UK academic chemistry from undergraduate to Professor.

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Publication details

The article was received on 26 Dec 2016, accepted on 25 Sep 2017 and first published on 25 Sep 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6RP00252H
Citation: Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2018, Advance Article
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    Approaching gender equity in academic chemistry: lessons learned from successful female chemists in the UK

    J. Miller-Friedmann, A. Childs and J. Hillier, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2018, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C6RP00252H

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