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Sexism still rife in science and tech jobs, research says

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Women working in science and technology still face major barriers to career success, according to researchers at the University of Newcastle, with many women emphasising the struggle to balance family and professional life as a significant problem. So-called institutionalised sexism and male dominated boards were also highlighted as major problems.

The Newcastle research team surveyed 60 small businesses, in the science and technology field in the North East region, and spoke to 30 women employees.

It found that some women had elected not to have children, specifically because they felt it would impede their career development. Women with families said that they could not attend as many conferences as they would have liked to, and had to pass up opportunities to travel because childcare was a problem.

Figures from industry appear to bear this out: a survey from BT Conferencing showed that 84 per cent of men stay in hotels at least once a year, on business, compared to 57 per cent of women.

"There have undeniably been numerous developments for women in the workforce over the past decade, though it seems many are still hitting glass ceilings, and it is not just in male-dominated industries," said Nigel Stagg, CEO, BT Conferencing.

He went on to say that women engage far less in business-related travel, opting to use technology "to support their meeting requirements" instead.

The Newcastle research also found that many women felt they had been "weeded out" of the career structure before they had reached their potential. Others still felt their positions did not adequately reflect their skills or experience.

The findings of the report are familiar: firms employ on average four women for every ten men, and although 40 per cent of firms did have at least one female manager, women are still over represented in support or administrative roles.

Many of those surveyed mentioned low confidence and a lack of female scientist role models as particular barriers for women working in the industry, while others said institutionalised sexism and male-biased incentives (such as away days to football matches) were significant professional barriers. ®

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