Wake Up, Science and Religion

Science & Religion News 6 (Spring 1995): 8

Kevin Sharpe

The science and religion field wants to feel legitimate, to satisfy the moral imperative for equality, and to use talent to its fullest. It should do what it can to bring this about.

My friend remarked about the absence of women in the nearly full conference room, something I too had noticed--with five minutes to go, she was the only woman present. I also noted that the six presenters at this Theology and Science session included only one woman. The Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion always teaches me something.

Senior scientists who are women usually follow the "traditional male" model. They adopt the work styles and values of the older men, and focus on their science to find their identity through research and career. Marriage and children come second, if at all, and then most wait till after they've achieved tenure. This doesn't meet the needs of most younger women, whether students or faculty. They have no role model and struggle for an alternative approach that balances career and family.

Universities must provide child care and parental leave. They also have to slow the race to tenure.

They must reduce isolation, provide information, and set up a supportive and colleagial work environment.

If they can't reform themselves, the institutions may need outside pressures. Or legal action.

Both the factors in science departments affect science and religion.

Women, therefore, face three problems: to get in at the bottom, to maintain themselves in the field, and to reach the top. Can this role fit with child raising and the "relational female" model for life?

The field wants to feel legitimate, to satisfy the moral imperative for equality, and to use talent to its fullest. It should do what it can to bring this about.