Number of women among biochemistry
teacher–scholar applicants is low relative
to the number among postdoctoral trainees
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, for the first time, has surveyed members and directors of departments with biochemistry Ph.D. programs about women in academic biochemistry, complementing a 1986 informal analysis.
President Suzanne Pfeffer appointed a task force (Elizabeth C. Theil, chair; Melanie Cobb; Judith P. Klinman; Frederick R. Maxfield; Janet L. Smith; and JoAnne Stubbe); Massachusetts-based consulting firm AltshulerGray provided advice and conducted the survey. Questions were targeted mainly toward practicing biochemists, traditionally the dominant membership of the society, rather than biochemists in training. Respondents’ comments indicated their appreciation of the opportunity to express opinions on the subject; a few respondents provided examples of inequalities in departmental resource allocation for women.
About the survey participants
There were 1,780 responses from 11,262 members and 48 responses from 204 chairs and directors — typical response rates for society member surveys, according to AltshulerGray.
Of the respondents, 45 percent were women, 54 percent men, 88 percent Ph.D.s, 85 percent in academe, and 72 percent in tenured or tenure-track positions. The respondents reported that, on average, 61 percent of their professional effort is devoted to research, with the remainder being teaching, administration and other activities. Family issues were major concerns among all respondents, of whom 75 percent had children and 90 percent were or had been married. Below is an overview of the data showing the largest differences between men and women biochemists and some of the factors that influence career choices.
Teacher–scholars in academic biochemistry
Teacher–scholars, who have the largest impact on the training of biochemists and future planning, are tenured or tenure-track faculty members engaging in teaching, research and institutional governance. By contrast, nontenure-track faculty members, an expanding academic group, are involved in either research or teaching.