Superwomen and the streetlight effect in research on family-related career challenges among scientists in Africa

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Superwomen and the streetlight effect in research on family-related career challenges among scientists in Africa

Type: Article in monograph or in proceedings
Title: Superwomen and the streetlight effect in research on family-related career challenges among scientists in Africa
Author: Prozesky H.
Journal Title: STI 2018 Conference Proceedings
Start Page: 495
End Page: 503
Publisher: Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS)
Issue Date: 2018-09-11
Keywords: Scientometrics
Abstract: Evidence collected since the late 1960s on the way in which family responsibilities may cause women scientists to be less productive than their male colleagues, generally disconfirms such a hypothesis, leading some to caution against an over-reliance on an explanatory framework that positions family-related variables as central to the research productivity gender gap. In this paper, I argue that such a conclusion is premature with regard to the African context, which has been largely absent from literature on the topic. A recent, continent-wide study of African scientists, the first of its kind, shows that that women’s scientific production is indeed negatively impacted by these family responsibilities. The results of a further analysis of the survey data on African scientists are presented here, showing that women scientists carry a heavier domestic and childcare burden than their male counterparts, and are more likely to perceive balancing work and family demands as a career challenge. However, the women scientists’ likelihood to report having children and/or other dependents, and the number they report, are lower than for men scientists. A sociological interpretation of these results leads to a critical reflection on the past 50 years of research on the issue of women in science in terms of its tendency to be systematically biased in favour of “surviving superwomen”. It is argued that, if such research were to contribute to policy aimed at a more gender-diversified scientific workforce, it needs to address the gaps left by a “streetlight” of easily accessible data sources.
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/65176
 

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