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Those same old prejudices? Gendered experiences in the science workplace

Hatchell, H. and Aveling, N. (2008) Those same old prejudices? Gendered experiences in the science workplace. Journal of Workplace Rights, 13 (4). pp. 355-375.

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As society continues to become more dependent on science and technology, the disparity between women and men in the sciences not only represents a waste of human capital but is also problematic in terms of principles of gender equity. Yet, despite more than three decades of equal opportunity legislation, women remain underrepresented in the public sphere, and this is particularly evident in the sciences. This article builds on earlier research and investigates some of the reasons for the continued gender imbalance in the sciences as more and more women eagerly enter the sciences, achieve academic success, and enroll as PhD students, but ultimately do not remain in their chosen scientific field. More specifically, we use "storying" as a way of presenting the doctoral experiences of several women who, despite the unambiguously gender-based harassment they experienced during the period of their candidature, have successfully completed their PhDs in the sciences in Australian universities. We particularly focus on the experiences of women who completed their PhDs in 2007 and 2008. Their story shows how, as a direct consequence of their experiences, these women left their chosen research areas because they felt that they had little or no choice. Given the extant literature (see, for example, Gutek, 1985; Linehan, 2000; Sappleton & Takruri-Rizk 2008; Wirth, 2001), we suggest that their stories are not idiosyncratic but are illustrative of more general and widespread societal positions and concerns. Thus we argue that if the problem of women's underrepresentation in the sciences is to be addressed, we need to look to the masculinist culture of organizations as an explanatory factor. We conclude that it is organizational culture that needs to change and suggest that while antidiscriminatory legislation is important, it is not adequate to address both overt and covert discrimination in the workplace.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Baywood Publishing
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