Empowering Women in Neuroscience

A Call to Action for Equal Opportunities in European Academia

October 23, 2023

"A European perspective on structural barriers to women’s career progression in neuroscience", recently published in Nature Neuroscience, sheds light on the persistent gender disparities in European academic neuroscience. Despite an increase in the number of women entering the field, the transition from postgraduate studies to senior faculty positions remains a significant hurdle for female scientists. This insightful perspective, authored by Ashley M. Bourke, Teresa Spanò, and Erin M. Schuman, neuroscientists at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, presents a thoughtful discussion of the challenges hindering women's progression and advocates for transformative changes in European academia.

The perspective highlights a disturbing and often-discussed trend: although women make up more than 50% of neuroscience PhD students, their representation drops dramatically at the postdoctoral level and drops even further among principal investigators. Contributors to this decline include deeply ingrained societal attitudes and institutional biases. From implicit gender bias in hiring decisions to the challenges of balancing family responsibilities with the demands of an academic career, the perspective delves into the multiple barriers women face on their academic journeys.

To address these challenges, the authors propose a multi-pronged approach. A key recommendation is to expand data collection efforts to provide a more nuanced understanding of the issues at play. They emphasize the importance of collecting detailed, field-specific data to inform targeted interventions. In addition, Bourke et al. call for the implementation of family-friendly policies, including accessible and affordable childcare options, and advocate for equalizing the division of household labor through legislative action.

They also highlight the critical role of male allies in reshaping the academic landscape. By actively confronting bias and advocating for gender equity, male colleagues can go a long way toward fostering an inclusive environment where everyone's talents are recognized and valued.

Furthermore, the authors urge academic institutions, policymakers, and professional organizations to collaborate on meaningful initiatives. They emphasize the need for a collective effort to break down the barriers that impede the progress of women in neuroscience and other STEM fields. By fostering an equitable environment where talent knows no gender, the scientific community can unlock unparalleled potential, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements.

Other Interesting Articles

Go to Editor View