Women in Science Given Boost; Abusers Gain Custody




The National Academy of Sciences has called for broader national efforts in eliminating the barriers that women face in the sciences, especially in hiring and promotion at research universities, in a Sept. 18 report that looks at the continuing gap between men and women in science and engineering fields. Prior to the report, the National Science Foundation-the federal agency that funds research and promotes science programs-awarded Brown University a major grant to nurture women in the sciences. Brown will receive $3.3 million over five years to create an administrative shadowing program and boost leadership potential for women by establishing career development awards that create peer networks for women. There are 32 other universities that are currently implementing similar approaches through the National Science Foundation program, according to director Alice Hogan.

The report found that, in comparison to their male colleagues, female faculty members were generally paid less, experienced slower rates of promotion, were less likely to be in tenured positions, received fewer hours and held fewer leadership positions.

"Women are capable of contributing more to the nation's science and engineering research enterprise, but bias and outmoded practices governing academic success impede their progress almost every step of the way," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, who is former Health and Human Services secretary and chair of the academy committee that issued the report.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • In time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society is urging Congress to provide $48 million to reduce racial and ethnic disparities by providing cancer screenings and treatment to uninsured women. The funding would serve 130,000 women. This year, the society estimates over 212,000 new breast cancer cases will occur and the disease will claim the lives of more than 40,000 U.S. women.
  • Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is the first female candidate to join the race to elect the next secretary general of the United Nations, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 19. Kofi Annan will step down from the post later this year, and New York-based rights group Equality Now has launched a campaign to promote a woman in his place. Also at the United Nations this week, as the international body convened, Al-Shaykha Hayya Rachel Al Khalifa, the leader of the Bahraini delegation, became the first Arab Muslim woman to open a U.N. summit.

  • After more than 1,000 people signed a petition protesting an Aug. 28 decision by the Saudi Department of the Religious Affairs to remove the women's prayer section from the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the authorities have reversed their position, the Arab News reported Sept. 12. Now, 53 percent of the mosque will be devoted to female worshippers.
  • Activists across the country are organizing potluck fundraisers to stop the abortion ban passed by the South Dakota Legislature in February as a test case to overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. South Dakota voters will have a chance to reject the ban on the November ballot, and lawmakers in other states will be watching closely; if the law stands, similar measures may follow.
  • Yemeni women are increasingly using their vote in a country where the female illiteracy rate is 70 percent, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 20. In Yemen, female representation remains low. In the first local elections in 2001, only 38 of the 150 women who ran for office won. However, the number of female voters has increased from 11 percent in 1993 to 42 percent in 2003.

For more information:

"One by One, Women Count Bylines":

Equality Now, Time for a Woman campaign:

34 Million Friends of UNFPA:

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Parental alienation, a discredited concept that has become a leading defense for parents in custody disputes, is leading courts to award custody to abusive parents, Newsweek reported Sept. 25. According to a 2004 survey in Massachusetts by Harvard professor Jay Silverman, custody was awarded in 54 percent of cases where accusations of abuse occurred.

Parental alienation is a psychological theory that one parent will make a false accusation of abuse and turn children against the other parent in order to gain advantage in custody disputes. For example, a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., woman who said she was a victim of spousal abuse for six years, lost custody of her two children to her ex-husband who used parental alienation as a legal argument. He claimed that his ex-wife, Yevgenia Shockome, had lied about being abused to poison his relationship with their two children. Domestic violence advocates say the case is but one example of many where abusers are awarded custody of children.

"It's really been a cancer in the family courts," says Richard Ducote, an attorney in Pittsburgh who has represented abuse victims in custody cases for 22 years. "It's made it really difficult for parents to protect their kids. If you ask for protection, you're deemed a vindictive, alienating parent."

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The Bush administration blocked U.S. aid to the United Nations Population Fund for the fifth consecutive year, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., announced Sept. 15. The $34 million contribution to the fund had been appropriated by Congress, but was withheld by the administration because the U.N. agency provides health services in China and the administration accuses the agency of supporting abortion there. According to Rep. Maloney, the cumulative amount of money withheld since 2001 could have helped prevent up to 10 million unwanted pregnancies, 4 million induced abortions and 23,500 maternal deaths, as well as 385,000 infant and child deaths.
  • HIV-AIDS is the biggest killer of new mothers in South Africa, Reuters reported Sept. 20. A maternal mortality study released by the national health department showed that AIDS caused 20.1 percent of the 3,406 deaths of pregnant women between 2002 and 2004. A lack of transportation and education as well as negligent health care workers were cited as contributing factors.
  • After a year of tracking bylines in five major U.S. magazines-the Atlantic, Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair-Glamour editor Ruth Davis Konigsberg's tally shows a 3-to-1 ratio between men and women authoring articles. Of 1,446 articles counted, only 447 were written by women.


  • Emergency contraception has not lowered the abortion rate since it was legalized in the United Kingdom in 2001, the London newspaper Metro reported Sept. 15. Health care providers speculated that emergency contraception would help prevent over 66,000 unintended pregnancies and lower the abortion rate; instead, abortion rates have climbed in the past two decades. "Emergency contraception may not be the solution," Prof. Anna Glasier told the British Medical Journal. "Perhaps you should concentrate most on encouraging people to use contraception before or during sex, not after it."
  • Female candidates fared well in primaries in Massachusetts and Washington on Tuesday. In Massachusetts, Republican Kerry Healey won her party's nomination for the governor's mansion, while Democrat Martha Coakley won her party's nod for attorney general. In Washington, Democrat Darcy Burner won the state's Sept. 19 Democratic primary, and will challenge Republican David Reichert. Two female incumbents in Washington-Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris-also won their parties' primaries.

Irene Lew is the editorial intern at Women's eNews. Nouhad Moawad is the Arabic site intern and Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief.

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