Sue Rosser, provost at San Francisco State University, lectured SIUE attendees and the public Wednesday about her research, titled “Academic Women and their Struggle to Succeed: The Science Glass Ceiling.” The National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE Grant sponsored the lecture.
Rosser received her doctoral degree in zoology and has served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SFU since August 2009 and has edited collections and written more than 100 journal articles and 13 books on the theoretical and applied problems of women and science and women’s health.
She has been a professor of public policy and history, technology and society, and served as director for the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research at the University of Florida-Gainesville. She has also taught and served in women’s studies departments at other universities in the U.S.
The research Rosser presented to SIUE proposed a fresh perspective of the women in the science and technology culture within a university setting. She has interviewed many female scientists regarding their research, obstacles faced and love of science.
“All responded that the major issue was balancing career with family, that was the major issue that was a problem for them in their careers,” Rosser said. “When I first came out with this, this was relatively newsworthy in the science community. It was not very newsworthy to those of us who have gone through it and tried to balance our careers and family, but it was relatively newsworthy to the scientific world.”
Rosser said many women have to make the decision to delay having children until after they have established careers, and could be in their mid-thirties before they receive a tenured position at university.
She said outright discrimination did not appear to be a major factor affecting women in the lab and workplace at universities, but that it does continue to happen in today’s world whether people believe it or not.
“I am very disappointed in us as a country. I have daughters who are now 36 and 39, and when I had them while I was going through grad school I thought we would have all these problems solved,” Rosser said. “And now I see them struggling with the same issues with daycare with their kids — and they are not actually in academia.”
She said these problems are mostly caused by society and the way people operate on a daily schedule.
“We have really not fixed the daycare situation very much. We have not fixed the work-life situation, and actually people work more in the U.S. than they did at they time I was getting my degree,” Rosser said. “So it is very distressing. Some things are better but some things are not better, so it’s a plus-minus.”