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From »The Analytical Scientist« (Issue 40, May 2016). (5/16). "(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass. Is (Analytical) Science Still Sexist? (by Joanna Cummings)".

Organisation Organisation Texere Publishing Ltd.
Products Product analytical chemistry
  Product 2 The Analytical Scientist
Person Person Gaston, Nicola (Univ Auckland 201606 Associate Professor in Physics)

Is (analytical) science still sexist? Six chemists contemplate the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in science: does it exist and if so, can it be broken?

Under-representation of women in high-level positions is a cross-industry problem, and the scientific community is no exception. A recent Future Science Group (FSG) survey stated that across the European Union, only 11 percent of senior-level academic positions in science are held by women, while worldwide, women researchers comprise only 28 percent of the R&D community ( Meanwhile (and as recently as 2014), almost 2,000 theoretical chemists called for a boycott of the International Congress on Quantum Chemistry because the speaker list was entirely male (

At The Analytical Scientist, we are aware of (and affected by) the issue, but pleased to report that the number of women on The Power List almost tripled from eight in 2013 to 23 in 2015. In 2014, women comprised 32.5 percent of the “Top 40 Under 40”. But is that truly representative? Across the globe, awareness of gender inequality is rising, with firm steps being taken to boost the status of women – and, importantly, other minority groups. Indeed, university “Equality Champions” are attempting to redress the balance in world of academia; another example is this year’s University in Delaware conference, which raised awareness and provided a valuable networking experience for “women of color” in STEM careers ( The ferocious Twitter backlash against Tim Hunt suggested that for some, there is no place for sexism in science – whether real or perceived.

In 2015, Nicola Gaston (who shares her views here published her book “Why Science is Sexist”. In it, she details the ways in which unconscious bias is still holding women back. Going back to the FSG survey, 88 percent of respondents felt that young women are dissuaded from advancing in STEM careers by the lack of female role models. To that end, 2016’s Power List will celebrate the skills and careers of women in analytical science – 50 of them to be precise (nominate now: Importantly, we hope that our efforts are not seen as tokenism or condescension, but rather an attempt to balance the scales – at least until meritocracy becomes more practice than theory.

Will it be difficult to find 50 inspiring women? We don’t think so, and nor do the following six people. All of them are currently working in analytical science – some in labs, some with technology, some teaching the next generation. Some have experienced overt sexism; some have progressed through their careers free from discrimination. All of them are women. In the following articles, they share their experiences – and flag up some of the reasons why an all-women Power List is a positive step forward.

About the author

Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.


Recommended Reads

“Why Science is Sexist”, Nicola Gaston

Nicola Gaston asks why, in a field known for unbiased and objective enquiry, there is still so much unconscious bias against women scientists.

“A Chemical Imbalance”, Polly L Arnold & Cameron Conant

Funded by the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award, this book and accompanying film tell the story of women scientists’ fight for equality in the field of chemistry and the underrepresentation of women in STEM. Watch the film: 

“What Works: Gender Equality by Design”, Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet discusses the difficulty in getting rid of unconscious bias, and provides solutions for tackling it at the organizational level.

“Lab Girl”, Hope Jahren

A memoir by geochemist and geobiologist Hope Jahren, in which she shares the highs and lows of scientific research… And explains why she felt the need for a spanner in her pocket while working in the lab at night.

Record changed: 2016-07-05


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