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BioPerspectives

Muslim Women in Science

  • John Sterling

Do women scientists and engineers in Muslim societies face different problems in terms of educational and employment opportunities than women in the West? The answer might surprise you, says Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She just returned from a meeting in Kuwait entitled "Conference of Women Leaders in Science, Technology and Engineering." The meeting was sponsored by U.S. and Kuwaiti officials.

"What was really amazing to learn was that Muslim women have to deal with most of the same issues regarding academic and professional ceilings as do women scientists in America and other Western countries," she notes. In addition to being a researcher, Dr. Handelsman is acting president of the newly-formed Rosalind Franklin Society, which seeks to support, promote, and advance women pursuing scientific careers in education and business.

In this week's GEN podcast, Dr. Handelsman also discusses the types of scientific jobs held by the Muslim women who attended the conference. She also talks about the wide range of female scientific talent available in Islamic countries and the women’s desire to collaborate on a closer basis with their Western counterparts.

Despite the image problem that the United States has in many Muslim countries, Dr. Handelsman emphasizes that the majority of scientists in those societies, both female and male, hold U.S. scientists and engineers in very high regard and are eager to explore job opportunities in the West and to carry out joint research projects.

Be sure to listen to this timely and extremely informative podcast then return to the blog to answer the following question:

Which specific steps do you think are needed to give women more opportunities for advancement at academic research institutions and in the scientific business world?