An Associated Press review of accredited U.S. forensic science programs found about 75 percent of graduates are women, an increase from about 64 percent in 2000. Women say they were drawn to forensic science by strong role models, a desire to help people. and stability that’s often lacking in other scientific careers. Those in the field estimate that the nation’s forensic labs are at least 60 percent female. “I used to tell people when I first came that we considered forensic science Boys Town, but now it’s more like a girls world,” said Sylvia Buffington-Lester, 58, a supervisor in Virginia’s latent print division who was the only woman in that division when she started in 1987.
West Virginia University professor Max Houck, chairman of a committee that accredits the field’s academic programs, is researching what draws women to the sometimes gruesome world of forensics. Among other factors, he cites the “CSI effect,” saying the popular CBS show and its spinoffs were the first to show a proportional number of women in leading scientific roles. Female forensic scientists point to characters like crime writer Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner in a string of best-selling thrillers.