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Top US professor to speak on gender equality in science

How damaging is a male-dominated professorial staff for a university? University of Copenhagen to host discussion on the causes and consequences of gender inequality in academia

Natural science students begin their studies with equal gender distribution. Yet only a fifth of professors are female. Why? What is happening across the academic path, to deter or support certain students, so that universities end up with a skewed gender ratio?

With so much to question regarding gender roles in science, the Strategic Research Committee of the Department of Biology (BIO-SFU) and the University of Copenhagen’s (UCPH) Faculty of Science are hosting a symposium entitled ‘Gender Equity in the Natural Sciences – Status and Solutions’ on 1 December.

The event comes at a time when the gender equality issue is red hot at the University of Copenhagen.

Gender equity took longer than anticipated

The number of women has surpassed the number of men at Danish universities including UCPH. But women in top management and academia are outnumbered by their male colleagues, recently leading to a rule that if no women apply to a job, nobody is hired.

Nancy Hopkins, a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, will speak at the event on ‘The Mirages of Gender Equality: The Changing Status of Women in Science.’

“Enormous progress has been made in America to bring more women into science and engineering fields. But it has taken longer and been harder than anticipated. A 1999 study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped to explain why. I chaired the committee that undertook this study, and later I worked with MIT to implement its recommendations,” she says to the University Post.

Still under-represented

Hopkins can therefore offer a wealth of information on the practicalities of gender equity in the sciences.

In her talk, she will “describe what we learned, and how the MIT administration removed previously invisible barriers to women’s advancement,” she says.

She will also “speculate on why, despite so much progress, women remain under-represented in most fields of science and engineering.”

Positive discussions

The symposium serves to place emphasis on the contributing factors and subsequent effects of gender inequality in the Natural Sciences. Talks will be followed by a panel discussion on ‘Women in the Danish Natural Sciences,’ thereby creating a space to offer creative solutions on how to promote gender equity in university settings.

The organizers encourage anyone who is interested to attend on their website:

“Gender equity in the university environment is about attracting the best young talents of both genders to an academic career. We invite anyone, male or female, student or professor, to come and learn the facts, get inspired by the ideas of others, contribute with ideas of their own, and help identify solutions that work,” they write.

See more information on fact box right.

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