Why are there so few women in Science?

Inspired by my own background, I wanted to pose this very straightforward question: Why are there so few women in science?

As a PhD student in immunology I really did not “see” the gender disparity – and it was not until I was faced with outright discrimination while pursuing more business ventures post-PhD that I realized that my gender did play a role in how people (especially men of power) viewed me.  However, in returning to my roots for my current paying position and having now several female colleagues and female leadership in my office – do I realize the potential that is lost with the lack of support of women in the scientific pipeline.

Today I had a lively discussion with a big wig at H.- and we discussed intimately the details by which women really struggle at my alma mater.  Even though women in science have made are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were 50 years ago – we are not quite there yet.  Following a disastrous presentation by then president at H.-, the lady professors began tracking these issues more intimately and in fact you can check out the stats yourself: Glimcher and Lieberman’s comments.

Interestingly the stereotype that women are not as capable as men in math and science continue to pervade our children’s thoughts.  A recent article in the NYT suggest that this “stereotype” threatens how we handle ourselves in the workplace – or in this case in our scientific careers.

As full disclosure, I walked away from science.  Although I can never be sure that the threat of such stereotypes didn’t play a role, there were many other compounding factors that helped me make the choice including the hostile academic environment, the press for funding, and the necessity of focus.  But who knows?  Perhaps it was because I felt that I had always been perceived as less capable?