Like many professions, academia is a challenging environment for women. In some disciplines (e.g. computer science), the number of women remains low despite efforts to increase it. Have there been any academic studies on the ways of improving the working conditions for women, specifically focussing on women in academia? As an academic working in hard sciences (i.e. not gender studies), what book or review could I read on the topic, to help me get a better understanding of these issues (and possibly improve my own behavior)?

I'm not interested in “advice” (in part because I am not a woman), but in studies of how effective are various possible ways of improving the working conditions for women (in academia). Like “we study universities implementing policies X and Y, and show that they do increase gender diversity bu xx%”

The question “Women in academia” is related, but I'm asking for material with a totally different perspective.

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    A simple google of "women in academia study" pops tons of studies. That said, I cannot from personal experience agree with women having it any harder in academia than men - on the contrary. Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 17:15
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    are you more interested in questions along the lines "how to academically succeed as a woman in an environment largely consisting of men (1)", or "as a woman, how to balance academia with a 'regular' life (2)", or "... (3)"? I am not the right person to help here really, have just seen plenty of counterexamples to (1) (a woman 3 or so years ahead in my field, from me school, recently got the John Bates Clark Medal), but maybes LNG your particular interest more clear in your Wheaton could help others here to give you better advice? Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 17:46
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    I'm not interested in “advice” (in part because I am not a woman), but in studies of how effective are various possible ways of improving the working conditions for women (in academia). Like “we study universities implementing policies X and Y, and show that they do increase gender diversity bu xx%”.
    – F'x
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 19:02
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    @gnometorule I deleted my snarky comment, but care to give an example of how men have it harder than women in academia? I am very curious.
    – Amy
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 1:36
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    @gnometorule I was referring to your first comment. The fact that you know a few successful women in the sciences (so do I!) doesn't mean there isn't bias inherent in the system.
    – Amy
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 18:39

5 Answers 5


The most recent paper to make a big splash on this subject was "Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students", by Moss-Racusin et al. You can start there, and dig backwards through the references - you'll hit most of the major reports on this topic.

A few notes on the topic of this paper itself:

It is the same gender biases that academics have towards their students that they also demonstrate against their peers, so don't narrow your research too much. And if your question is "why are there so few academic women in the sciences?" you need to look at the problem from top to bottom. Women aren't going to want to become professors if they are already noticing the bias in undergrad.

  • Thanks, nice reference. The question is not so much about teaching and students, than about working conditions for women in the staff (i.e. not students).
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 0:04
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    Look through the references - many of the papers they cite are about the workplace and various initiatives.
    – Amy
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 0:42
  • Indeed, sorry, I had only given it a quick look. Thanks, it's a very nice starting point!
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 8:16

You may want to check out the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) website. There's a resources area on the right side of the page which includes publications and factsheets. Elsewhere, there's a link to relevant committee or groups for different STEM fields.


In the UK there is Athena SWAN Charter which

recognises commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education.

They have a number of reports that could be of interest including Measuring Sucess and a whole section devoted to good practice.


I think that you read French, so there is this book: Parcours de femmes à l'université : Perspectives internationales and also this study: Les femmes à l'université: Rapports de pouvoir et discriminations.


A Google Scholar search of "academia women" seems to reveal a number of potentially-relevant studies.

Below are primarily retrospective/introspective qualitative articles, but some quantitative articles exist.

‘We make the road by walking’: a collaborative inquiry into the experiences of women in academia Elizabeth Drame, Jennifer Mueller, Raquel Oxford, Sandra Toro, Debora Wisneski, Yaoying Xu Reflective Practice Vol. 13, Iss. 6, 2012 http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080%2F14623943.2012.732939

Inspiration From Role Models and Advice for Moving Forward Michelle G. Newman, Lata K. McGinn Behavior Therapy, Volume 43, Issue 4, December 2012, Pages 721–723 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2012.03.001

Kleihauer, Sarah, Carrie Ann Stephens, and William E. Hart. "Insights from Six Women on Their Personal Journeys to Becoming Deans of Agriculture: A Qualitative Study." Volume 11, Number 1–Winter 2012 (2012): 64.

Silander, C., Haake, U. & Lindberg, L. (2012). The different worlds of academia: a horizontal analysis of gender equality in Swedish higher education. Higher Education (18 december), 1-16.

O’Brien, K. R. and Hapgood, K. P. (2012), The academic jungle: ecosystem modelling reveals why women are driven out of research. Oikos, 121: 999–1004. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2012.20601.x

Multi-Institutional Study of Women and Underrepresented Minority Faculty Members in Academic Pharmacy Marie A. Chisholm-Burns, et al. Am J Pharm Educ. 2012 February 10; 76(1): 7. doi: 10.5688/ajpe7617

You may also wish to check out well-known blogs and sites that discuss the academic environment, including http://theprofessorisin.com and http://chronicle.com/section/Home/5 and http://www.phinished.org.

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