Women in science and technology careers often face obstacles that their male peers do not, and clinical research is no exception. A recent study revealed some of the specific challenges women working in research careers deal with, and what can be done to improve these conditions.
According to the 2020 study by Fathima et al., while most female scientists reported some form of maternity leave at their workplace, less than a third were offered some form of workplace nursery or child care -- making the return to work more expensive and stressful.
The leading challenge reported by 71.5% of women was workplace related stress. This stress is mostly induced by a lack of work-home life balance (reported by 46%.) Women frequently reported having to work beyond standard working hours, including night shifts, despite family obligations and child caring responsibilities.
Other challenges include those posed by peers, namely sexual harassment and excessive personal questions. Further, only 41% of women in science careers felt that management in their field held a positive attitude towards women’s careers progressing.
Some of the best remedies to the described challenges are flexible work timings, woman-friendly management policies, and fair appraisal and mentorship opportunities.
Flexible work timings, woman-friendly management policies, fair appraisal and mentorship appear to reduce the work-related stress and improve work-life balance among female scientists. Very few women in science feel that the HR policies of their workplace are women-friendly, and these can be improved by implementing some of the following practices:
Emphasize results over “seat-time”
Conduct regular compensation evaluations for employees of all levels.
Evaluate causes of attrition among women, including mothers and women who do not have children.
Actively recruit, mentor, and sponsor women into higher level executive positions.
A whopping 75.7% of women knew of another woman in science who had to leave their career due to some barrier -- this number is far too high, and can be prevented by listening to the actual needs of women in research and accommodating them.
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