Buying science and selling science: gender differences in the market for commercial science

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Growing opportunities for academic scientists to commercialize their science has led to a new commercial marketplace. Recent evidence suggests that “commercial science” participation is characterized by gender stratification. Using interviews with life science faculty at one high-status university we examine the mechanisms that instituted, reinforced, and reduced the gender gap in commercial science between 1975 and 2005. We find gender differences from processes on both the demand—(opportunity) and supply—(interest) sides; of deeper significance are the intersections between these sides of the market. Specifically, explicit early exclusion of women left them with fewer opportunities in the marketplace, weakening their socialization and skills in commercial science. This uneven opportunity structure left senior/mid-career women with fewer chances to confront the ambiguities of this new practice, resulting in their greater ambivalence. Gender differences remain significant among junior faculty but we find their decline prompted by greater gender-equality in advisor mentoring and the presence of institutional support which together have started to reshape the supply-side of commercial science.


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