Female researchers at the Faculty of science MU on the question of gender and science  

To inspire women who are considering a career in science, we have recorded several interviews with researchers and women in leadership positions in which we asked them, among other things, about the position of women in science. 

Jana Klánová, director of the RECETOX centre. Photo: RECETOX

Do you perceive any gender-related problems in science in the Czech environment? 

I am reminded of a scene from the movie ‘Hidden Figures’. I highly recommend this captivating story of three African-American women who were given the opportunity to work at NASA while cybernetics was in its infancy. These three brilliant women were entrusted with calculations key to the success of John Glenn’s space mission, but none of their colleagues noticed that the toilets in this prestigious workplace were ‘white’s only’. As a result, the scientists had to play for time and take a cross-country run to a more distant facility during each break. With a bit of exaggeration, this is a good description of the position of women in science. While the company is well aware that it cannot squander their potential, and allows them to compete in the same discipline, the (mostly male) environment is not fully prepared for them. This is not necessarily due to any bad intention or ill will; rather, people tend not to think that old patterns of behaviour can be discriminatory. In this way, gender problems are often interconnected with generational problems. I believe that, with a gradual generational change, people less burdened with conservative thinking will enter leadership positions and the situation will improve. Not least as the issue of reconciling careers and personal lives is important for all young people today, regardless of gender. 

There are still relatively few women in Czech science. Do you think more women in research or leadership positions could help science? 

This is simple maths; if we lose most of the women along the way, we will lose half the talent that could move science forward. It is not about quotas; our goal should not be to have 50% of women, men, Czechs, foreigners from somewhere.… the goal should be to give talent a chance and not to lose people unnecessarily due to disadvantages. To give those who have the skills and want to work in research the opportunity to do so with a level playing field. Women, like men, must be able to decide on their path at every stage of their career; and if they choose science, they should not feel unwelcome or be made to suffer or feel underestimated. But all this begins with upbringing in the family. We need confident and tolerant young people, whether women or men. 

prof. RNDr. Jana Klánová, Ph.D. 
Director of the RECETOX centre

You can read the whole interview here. 

Do you see a difference in the position of women in science abroad compared to the situation in the Czech Republic?

The role of women in academia is not easy and support is appropriate. In many countries, a women’s position in the academic environment is a direct reflection of their position in society. In my professional life, I have experienced both extremes. I have seen complete equality, with women holding leadership positions, which was completely natural for the environment, and a situation in which a woman, despite holding the role of coordinator or team leader, was not allowed to negotiate with male partners. The situation in Czech science, as in many other areas, is somewhere in the middle. While I do not see many women in leadership positions around me, I will always be allowed in meetings. 

doc. RNDr. Petra Urbanová, Ph.D. 
Director of the Department of Anthropology 
Department of Anthropology 

You can read the whole interview here. 

Photo: Kateřina Šejvlová / CC-BY 

What gender issues have you encountered as a woman in the scientific profession?  

Sometimes such situations occur ... When, for example, a woman applies for the position of researcher, questions arise about whether she has small children and whether she can combine a family and children. Sometimes they do not fall directly, but they are considered. I don't think men get asked these things. Today, this is changing a lot; for example, the EMBO organisation and the EU specifically list projects that seek to support women in science.  

doc. Mgr. Radka Chaloupková, Ph.D. 
Head of Research at the spin-off company Enantis  
Associate Professor, Department of Experimental Biology  

You can read the whole interview here. 

Photo: Helena Brunnerová 

Employee benefits at the Faculty of Science, MU

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