In a field dominated by men, women have cited isolation, biased evaluations and a lack of sponsors as reasons they leave science, engineering and tech fields, and research shows that women working in STEM are 45 percent more likely than their peers to leave the industry within a year.
"It's death by a thousand cuts,” said Janet Bandows Koster, executive director of the Association for Women in Science. "Every day you're faced with some comment, some snide remark, some inability to get a name on a research paper. And with an accumulation of those experiences, women tend to walk with their feet."
This week, women in science collectively took a very public cut when Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt said the following at a lunch for women at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea:
"Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry."
The 72-year-old British scientist has since resigned from his post at University College London over the controversial comments and said, "What was intended as a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment was apparently interpreted deadly seriously."
Meanwhile, women in the field have responded with both outrage and humor.
"I can't think of a time I've cried in the lab," said Rebecca Ellison, a nuclear chemist in Charleston, S.C. "Thrown glassware? Absolutely. There's nothing like shattering a piece of expensive glassware after a test goes wrong to calm you down.
"If Mr. Hunt can't handle working with a woman covered head to toe in PPE (personal protective equipment), then maybe he's the one who should refrain from working in a co-ed laboratory."
Other women have taken to social media to share their reaction to the news that their presence in scientific fields is so #distractinglysexy.