Women Dropping Out of Science Careers

In this study of both men and women scientists, researchers found no evidence of gender bias or a so-called "glass ceiling," but that women's desire to be with their children trumped that of men's desire.

"Women aren't as convinced that they can succeed as many men," she said. "Even women without children were concerned with spending time with children. It's the perceived family situation, even if they're not married at the time."

Based on the study and her personal experience (she is the mother of two teenagers), Cohen-Fix believes having more women mentors could be a solution to the "dropout" problem.

"I think there is a paucity of role models for women" of accomplished researchers who have kids that turn out to be normal, she said. "Because women don't go into the system, that just doesn't trickle down."

Cohen-Fix advises women researchers who are having kids to try to do both before dropping out, even if they think they might have trouble juggling both family and long hours in the lab.

"The other thing I always tell people is to try it, but if you leave before even trying [you'll never know]," she said. "[Science] is moving forward so quickly that even if you take two or three years off, it's really hard to come back."

For now, at least in the private sector, mentoring programs for women have become de rigeur for several large companies, including Cisco and Microsoft.

And for those large tech companies, that travel to Capitol Hill every year to ask for raising limits on H1B work visas, the issue of attracting those women back into the work force should be of utmost importance, Sherbin said.

"The talent is actually sitting in their back yard," she said.

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