Penelope Duerksen-Hughes on women in science

"Resist the urge to see [new mothers in the lab] as lost causes who are personally responsibility for having made poor, career-jeopardizing choices."

- Penelope Duerksen-Hughes, writing in The Scientist

In the most recent issue of The Scientist, the leaky pipeline for female biomedical researchers is once again in the spotlight. Duerksen-Hughes, above, a professor at Loma Linda University, was writing in to join her voice to other readers giving advice on how to encourage women to stay in science.

Other tips provided by Laura Mays Hoopes, a professor at Pomona College, were specifically aimed at men. These included recommending women to speak in the departmental seminar or the conference you’re organizing; not looking over the shoulders of females who are trying to explain their work to you at poster sessions; and choosing a female scientist to ring up and chat about your latest result, or to invite to lunch, instead of one of your male cronies. If you want to nominate someone for an award, nominate a woman; according to an accompanying article by Phoebe Leboy, only 8.6% of the Lasker Prizes given out since 1991 have gone to women, and among 474 types of science awards available, a full 33% have never once been awarded to a female. And if you can’t think of a nominee, that’s no excuse: Hoopes says you can contact her and she’ll give you some ideas personally!

The woman-in-science theme of this issue extended to Richard Gallagher’s editorial, in which he recounts belatedly realizing that only 14% of The Scientist’s editorial advisory board are female. From now on, he vowed, positive discrimination would be in force until the percentage reaches one-third, hopefully by the end of 2008.