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[BEIJING] Despite steady growth in numbers, female scientists and engineers in China continue to face discrimination in the workplace, says a report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

It notes that there are few women amongst the country's top-ranked scientists and suggests that gender equality be written into laws relevant to science.

Released to coincide with International Women's Day today (8 March), the report is based on surveys and interviews with 2,971 scientists and engineers nationwide.

It found that there were nine million women in science and engineering in 2005 — one third of all scientific and technological professionals in China.

However, these women are not as successful as their male colleagues.

Only 4.6 per cent of chief scientists in the 973 Programme — a scheme funding basic science in China — are female. Within CAS, just five per cent of members are women.

Of the female professionals interviewed, 93.8 per cent said they believed they had been discriminated against when trying to find a research job.

"Many female researchers complain that institutes and labs openly admit to only recruiting males," says Zhao Lanxiang from the CAS Institute of Policy and Management and lead author of the report.

He said the situation is markedly different from two decades ago, when China's planned economy stressed gender equality.

The report also found that female scientists and engineers take a more practical view of their professions that their male colleagues. Most women interviewed cited job stability and high salaries as the main reasons for entering the profession, rather than a personal interest in furthering science.

Many female scientists and engineers also have to cope with running homes and caring for children in addition to their research duties.

The report suggests that stipulations on gender equality become part of laws relevant to science, that a special research fund for female scientists be established, and that female science and technology professionals are encouraged to form more organisations to express their interests.

"These are only initial policy suggestions. We need to conduct more studies on the applicability of the proposals," Zhao told SciDev.Net.

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