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Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

 Федеральный исследовательский центр «Красноярский научный центр Сибирского отделения Российской академии наук»

Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

Can we break the glass ceiling?

5 March 2021 г. FRC KSC SB RAS

Сможем ли мы разбить стеклянный потолок?
International Women's Day is celebrated all over the world. The history of this holiday begins in 1908, when there was the first manifestation with slogans for the equality of women in the United States. The Soviet Union was one of the leaders in the struggle for emancipation. Many social achievements of the USSR later became the norm in other developed countries as well. Since 1975, all the United Nations events dedicated to Women's Rights and International Peace Day have been timed to coincide with 8 March.

This day celebrates the achievements of women regardless of national boundaries or ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences. Despite significant advances in the field of equal access to education and science, this area is often predominantly male. As for the staff of the Federal Research Center "KSC SB RAS", slightly more than half (52%) of the employees is women. Among scientific workers, their number is already slightly lower, namely 43%. Approximately the same proportion of women is among candidates of science (45%). Among doctors of science, there are only 23% of women, about a third of laboratory heads are women. Finally, there are 36% of women in the administration and departments of the Federal Research Center.

The decline in the proportion of women as they move up the career or administrative ladder has been called the "glass ceiling" in many areas. Indeed, it is as if some kind of barrier cuts off the presence of women at the top of the management pyramid. The most obvious reason is often cited as the time costs associated with having a baby and caring for a child. Indeed, falling out of active scientific activity for several years can become a serious brake for many. Another reason is probably related to the persisting distribution of social roles in the family, when a woman spends more time on providing everyday life. There are assumptions that often women, due to the prejudices existing in society, themselves are less likely to choose specialities related to the exact sciences as a career opportunity. In the end, the dominance of men in some areas in itself can discourage women from advancing in this area. Social pressure forces us to be like everyone else.

One way or another, but the situation around the world is changing. Sometimes the struggle for a place in the sun takes radical forms, but the trend towards equal rights is pervasive. Changing stereotypes leads to an increase in the number of women in traditionally “male” physics, mathematics and programming. We see how an algorithm developed by an American programmer-woman helps create the first ever photograph of a black hole, or how a space technology specialist, also a woman leads and launches the first Arab mission to Mars.

On the eve of the holiday, we asked several scientists of the Federal Research Center "Krasnoyarsk Science Center of SB RAS" what they think about the problem of women's equality in the field of science.

What could be the reason for the “glass ceiling” which is still manifested in the form of an apparent disproportion between the quantity of women and men at different levels of the academic hierarchy?

Andrey Degermendzhi, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Director of the Institute of Biophysics.

I was a bit acquainted with the now famous geneticist Viguen Gueodokyan, who said: "Sex is not so much a way of reproduction, as is commonly believed, but a way of asynchronous evolution." His ideas to some extent explain the mechanism of sexual social disproportion towards males on the hierarchical ladder and the conditions for its “alleviation”. Gender differentiation is beneficial to the population, as a kind of evolutionary specialization in two main multidirectional aspects of evolution: conservation (conservative aspect) and change (operational one).

Since primitive society, men considered to be "hunters" have been at the forefront of the dangerous life. The male representatives had a narrow reaction variety, higher aggressiveness and curiosity, and more active exploratory and risky behavior. Women were associated with pregnancy, children, hearth, cave, that is, with a conservative environment. In a stable environment, "social" gender differences should fall, and in a changeable environment (extreme environment) they tend to increase. In the first case, the evolutionary plasticity of the species decreases with the disproportions decreasing, and in the second, it increases.

Models show that under stable conditions the “glass ceiling” will be “broken” in 50-80 years. If “inequality” is due to evolutionary consolidation, then its existence cannot be determined by voting and declarations of equality. The imbalances on the “ladder” are likely to decrease, but the existence of “home” will maintain a certain difference.

Nadezhda Sushchik, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Deputy Director of the Institute of Biophysics

Equal rights do not mean their equal realization. In addition to the social aspects, which are well stated in the text, men and women are different genetically and biochemically. This means that they differ in social behavior, attitude to personal life and career, goal-setting. So, the apparent "disproportion at different levels of the hierarchy, including the academic one" is imposed by nature.

Svetlana Evgrafova, Candidate of Biological Sciences, Senior Researcher at the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest

Now women have equal rights with men for professional realization in science. Nowadays, there are even excesses and artificial mechanisms in the observance of gender equality. However, this is the trend of the era, and I do not consider it to be negative. In Russia and in Krasnoyarsk, in my opinion, the rights are equal, given equal professional competencies and ambitions.

In the case of glass ceiling, as concerns jobs, I think women are scared off by the level of stress which inevitably rises as they climb the career ladder.

Natalya Kuzmik, Candidate of Biological Sciences, Scientific Secretary at the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest

I believe that the disproportion is most likely observed in the category of employees 50+, because of echoes of the gender inequality from the 19th century when science is not considered to be a woman's business. This stereotype was successfully refuted by world-famous women scientists, struggling to break through male chauvinism and public opinion, and we are grateful them for this.

In modern society, there are absolutely no obstacles for women in science. All depends on personal desires and qualities. The same as for men. The difference between women and men lies not in the area of professional realization, but in biological characteristics - the priorities of family and motherhood. And this, I believe, is the only reason why a woman can lag behind men in science for a short period of time. And this is exclusively a woman's choice, there is no pressure in this area from organizations.

In my opinion, among young scientists there are now equal proportions of women and men, in some areas women even occupy leading positions, which I consider to be normal.