Trends indicate that Taiwan is country attempting to spring forward while its male-centric culture prevents any great momentum. Young women interested in engineering, science, and technology fields are met with great opposition. Women weren’t allowed to enter higher education until 1954. At this time, they were admitted on an individual case-by-case basis only after they had passed the national college entrance examination. Women living in the 1950’s were plagued by poverty and hardship; pursuing a degree in science or engineering was seen as a way of gaining social mobility and to overcome monetary obstacles. A popular belief was that women were better at memorizing while men were better at reasoning; this prominent belief deterred females from entering science-related fields since science was heavily based on reason (Wang & Stocker 2010).
A 1996 survey study of women scientists in Taiwan revealed some interesting trends. The majority of women scientists were either mainlanders (meaning they were post-WWII Chinese living in Taiwan) or Ho-lo (meaning they were Taiwanese with pre-WWII ancestral ties to the mainland). No aboriginal women scientists were found during the study. Eighty percent of these women were married to scientists, and half of these married women were married to scientists within their own field. While none of the women mentioned any benefits to being married to scientists and those specializing in their field, the statistics show that these traits certainly didn’t hurt one’s chances. Being married, however, was considered beneficial by many; 33 – 40% of women felt that being married with children had a positive effect or no effect on their researching and teaching performance. Most women scientists work in the health sciences at less prestigious institutes than their male counterparts. (Wang & Stocker 2010).
The 1996 survey also revealed the perceptions women scientists had of themselves and each other. Many reported a lack of women role models. Marie Curie was the most mentioned name, but many participants chose to leave that portion of the survey blank. Many women considered themselves teachers, and those teaching in the life sciences held more gendered expectations of their students than any other group. These expectations included being in a stable relationship or marriage; women scientists concluded that those female students who were not in these kinds of relationships would have a harder time in their field, though they were not specific in what ways. A sound portion of those surveyed (25-35%) believed there were difference between women and men in how they carried out their research (Wang & Stocker 2010).
The total expenditure on research and development by the Taiwan National Science Council has been growing at a yearly rate between 6% and 9.5%. However, women only take up about 13.76% of the total available funding for their projects. In 2009, women received 2869 research funding opportunities for their projects, while men received 17212 in the same year. What this shows is that, even with growth in these fields, women are still vastly underrepresented (Wang & Stocker 2010).
There is also a lack of women at the top levels of their profession. Researchers have deemed this the “leaky pipeline” metaphor, which is used to describe the steady attrition of women throughout the education system and professional hierarchy. This results in that more women are gathered in the low level positions and are underrepresented in positions at the top due to lack of education of career movement. Physics, engineering, and technology fields are the areas that experience the most “leakage”, while medicine (especially nursing) and the life sciences experience the least. Taiwan has done two things in an attempt to end the “leakage”: 1) attract researchers to study why women are leaving the fields, and 2) invest in programs aimed to attract higher school girls to science as well as keep junior scientists in the trade. The idea behind these programs was to create more female role models for young girls (Cheng 2010). While the situation for women scientists in Taiwan has greatly improved, there is still much left to be done.