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Careers in science and technology are demanding for anyone–but especially so for women. It starts in school, where girls who love math and science are still outsiders, with few female role models to look up to or peers to relate to. And things only get worse, as pointed out in BusinessWeek’s annual special report on women in technology.The package highlights the special problems that women in technology businesses face, even as it applauds several women who have reached top positions in business and academia.

According to the report, women now earn 55% of bachelor’s degrees overall but only 18% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering. It also cites a 2003 survey that found women occupying only 11% of corporate-officer positions in technology companies, compared with 15.7% outside tech (still no great shakes). And the report claims that things are better in other sciences, offering that women now earn more than half of all degrees in the biological sciences.

As a bio PhD dropout myself, I guarantee you that those women who do stick it out are not earning equivalent percentages of tenured professorships and top spots in biotech firms.

The report profiles Francine Berman, director of the San Diego Supercomputing Center, which houses one of the 20 fastest computers in the world; Susan Desmond-Hellmann, president for product development at Genentech; math maven Maria Klawe, dean of Princeton University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science; and more. Even as the report celebrates their much-deserved success, it relates some of the challenges they have overcome and others they continue to face. Perhaps with such acknowledgement, we’ll be able to continue to make progress.

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