Women in science — What's too many?

The female president of the Royal College of Physicians in the U.K. has worried out loud whether the imminent preponderance of female researchers and physicians will result in the profession losing its status and its power. Senior level professors and execs in medical organizations are disagreeing, saying that women gravitate towards specialist areas other than, for instance, cardiology (which requires gruelingly long hours) because of their greater requirements for flexibility and for family-friendly work policies.

A report from a professor at the London Chest Hospital indicates that women are being “actively discouraged” from pursuing such specialist areas–but according to this article in Independent News Co, it seems to be guessing at the reasons: the need for more reasonable hours, family-friendly policies and for more flexible training options. The CEO of the Medical Research Council argues that those needs, when combined with the fact that the glass ceiling continues to keep women out of senior positions, is very likely to lead to a retention problem.

Comments from other medical science lights indicate that the need is huge (England’s national health care system is in shambles for lack of doctors), that half of all those entering doctoral or research work are women, and that reforming the system so that neither sex has to work unrealistic hours and sacrifice a personal life is the answer.