Women in Science

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Project log

Sharon Bell
added 7 research items
This paper outlines the need for adopting a more scientific approach to specifying and assessing academic standards in higher education. Drawing together insights from large-scale studies in Australia, it advances a definition of academic standards, explores potential indicators of academic quality and looks at approaches for setting standards. As learner outcomes need to be placed at the forefront of work on academic standards, this paper concludes by exploring the implications of this position for student assessment and institutional change.
This 2009 report documents the slow progress of Australian women hoping to make careers in science, engineering or technology related fields. This report, looking at the place and progress of women in science in Australia presents a sobering account. The report takes as its benchmark the 1995 Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Advisory Group’s report to the Australian Government. The similarities between the two reports are telling. Most obviously almost a decade and a half has passed since the first report, yet the issues are yet to be addressed. A comparison between the two reports reveals that any changes have been minimal. The 1995 report, like this report, noted that women were seriously under-represented in some specific disciplines of science, engineering and technology (SET), and were not well-represented at the most senior levels in all disciplines. The 1995 Advisory Group affirmed the importance of this in terms of diversity and innovation as well as in terms of maximising productivity, noting that continued under-representation and under-participation of women in SET-based education, training and employment is not only a cause for social concern on equity grounds, it is also likely to inhibit Australia’s capacity to develop internationally competitive research and industries. This report focuses on the participation, retention and success of women in the science and technology fields in Australia, concentrating on the persistent horizontal and vertical segregation of women academics and researchers as key contributing factors that impact on the research and innovation agendas. Particular emphasis is placed on identification of the barriers women face in their career paths as researchers and tertiary education professionals, and the barriers to attaining the highest levels of achievement and recognition. Emphasis is also placed on the cost of attrition of women from SET in terms of international competitiveness and return on (educational) investment.
The high levels of participation of women in higher education are currently attracting an unprecedented degree of interest. In this context, a shift is also occurring in equity policy in many countries, and the question of gender equity is now framed by concerns around male participation and male underachievement. However, a number of significant international studies are providing evidence of persistent patterns of horizontal segregation (by discipline) and vertical segregation (by level of seniority and measures of esteem) of women in higher education and research. Research undertaken in Australia by the Federation of AustralianScientific and Technological Societies (FASTS) on women in science provides evidence that this segregation leads to attrition of women from the scientific professions. This paper argues that, notwithstanding the need to focus on the most disadvantaged in terms of equity and social inclusion, the question of women in higher education is a half prosecuted agenda, and that premature abandonment of this agenda may impede successful realisation of broader social inclusion and diversity agendas. It may also impact negatively on productivity and innovation.