Women less likely to be­come PIs than equally qual­i­fied men

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Jack.grove@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Fe­male sci­en­tists are less likely to be­come prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tors than male re­searchers with sim­i­lar pub­li­ca­tion records because they of­ten re­ceive less credit for their work, a new study claims.

Track­ing the ca­reers of 6,336 hold­ers of post­doc­toral re­search fel- low­ships awarded by the US’ largest fund­ing body, the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, re­searchers at Yale Univer­sity found that women were 20 per cent less likely to be­come a prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor than men.

While 60 per cent of this dif­fer­en­tial was ex­plained by the stronger pub­li­ca­tion record on av­er­age of male re­searchers, the re­main­ing por­tion “ap­pears to stem from… women re­ceiv­ing less credit for their ci­ta­tions” than men, says the paper, “The gen­der gap in early ca­reer tran­si­tions in the life sciences”, pub­lished in Re­search Pol­icy last month.

Such bias could be ex­plained by the fact that male re­searchers, who make up the ma­jor­ity of grant ap­pli­ca­tion re­view­ers and jour­nal ed­i­tors, may eval­u­ate the re­search of male post­docs more favourably than that of women, plac­ing women “at a dis­ad­van­tage in se­lec­tion and pro­mo­tion pro­cesses”, state the paper’s authors, Marc Lerchen­mueller and Olav Soren­son, from Yale Management School.

How­ever, it could also be caused by the fact that “mod­ern science has be­come a team sport” and that eval­u­a­tors deem “men on [mixed gen­der] teams as hav­ing con­trib­uted more to the re­search than women”, they add.

The anal­y­sis, which stud­ies how many NIH post­docs be­tween 1985 and 2005 later won a pres­ti­gious grant to be­come a PI, could help to explain why rel­a­tively few women hold se­nior po­si­tions in US life sciences de­part­ments; only about a fifth of full pro­fes­sors at top US uni­ver­si­ties are women even though they win about half of all PhDs or post­doc­toral re­search po­si­tions, the paper states.

“Most of the loss of women [from life sciences] ap­pears to oc­cur within a short seg­ment of the ca­reer and one rel­a­tively far down the line,” states the paper, which adds that their “un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the field emerges in the space of only two or 10 years out of a ca­reer of 40 or more”.

Us­ing the “leaky pipeline” anal­ogy com­monly used to explain women’s un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tion in science leadership roles, the paper adds that “it is less that the pipe drips con­tin­u­ously along the way and more that it is gush­ing at one or two of the joints be­tween seg­ments”.

“Rather than drip­ping out of the STEM ca­reer pipe ev­ery cen­time­ter along the way, they ap­pear to pour out at crit­i­cal junc­tures,” the paper con­tin­ues.

In ad­di­tion to po­ten­tial bias, other fac­tors might also explain women’s lower tran­si­tion rate to PI, the paper adds.

“Even among dual-ca­reer cou­ples, women typ­i­cally shoul­der most of the bur­den in child­care and in main­te­nance of the house­hold” and also “of­ten do more than their fair share of ad­min­is­tra­tion and ser­vice in aca­demic set­tings”, it says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.