What do you do in your environment to help reduce the gender imbalance?
At Nature we have an imbalance in the authorship in our pages. I have specifically encouraged my staff to look outside the box when commissioning something to an author: Who would be the best woman to do this? As soon as you find a woman ask yourself “Are these women worse than the men you would have picked first?” Usually, you find the answer to be no. We then have a better choice and a better chance of balancing our authorship between the two sexes. But one problem we still face then is that there are fewer women out there and they tend to say no more often. They are simply too busy and have less time to spare.
Does science have a problem with gender imbalance and sexism?
Various studies found evidence for discrimination in academia. Some time ago there was a study where they did a test for employment practises using fictitious applications. They found that both, male and female academics, discriminated against people with female names, even though the test candidates had identical qualifications. I don't think it is essentially a bias against women in a conscious way. It's rather a subconscious thing.
Your advice to scientists at the start of their career?
Find an important scientific challenge to solve. Even if you are very interested in science, I think you are still going to make more progress if you look for the important problems. It's the way scientific careers seem to progress these days. And ask an experienced scientist for a bit of advice on the significance of the problem before you agree to do research on it. That would be my advice.
Questions were asked by Sonja Klein for AcademiaNet.(© AcademiaNet)