Part 1. Disparities between Women and Men

Data-driven literature reveals substantial disparities between women and men in the following areas:

1. Vertical Segregation

Vertical segregation describes disparities between women and men by level of seniority in a particular field. Data consistently show that women's representation declines as rank increase in both the EU and U.S. One of the many consequences of vertical segregation is that women are substantially underrepresented as academic "gatekeepers", such as grant evaluators, tenure committee members, journal editors, and members of national academies.

  • U. S. National Science Foundation (NSF). (2011). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. Arlington, VA. Table 9-25.              

  • European Commission (2009). The Gender Challenge in Research Funding: Assessing the European National Scenes. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Union.

2. Horizontal Segregation

Horizontal segregation describes how women and men cluster in different subfields of science at the same educational or employment level. Significant horizontal segregation exists between science and engineering (S&E) fields and other fields, such as the humanities and social sciences:

In both the United States and European Union, women are slightly underrepresented with respect to overall doctoral (Ph.D. or ISCED Level 6) degrees, but substantially underrepresented with respect to S&E doctorates: 

  • U.S. National Science Foundation. 2012. Doctorate Recipients, by Sex and Broad Field of Study: Selected Years, 1980-2010. Arlington, VA.

  • European Commission (2009). She Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.                    

In science and engineering, women are better-represented in some disciplines than in others. In both the United States and European Union, women are better represented in life sciences (such as biology) and environmental fields (such as environmental engineering) than in physical sciences or traditional engineering fields, such as mechanical and electrical engineering. Horizontal segregation is also present in medicine. In the United States, for example, 28% of all physicians but only 6% of all neurosurgeons are female.


3. Country-Level Research Spending

On an international level, an inverse relationship holds between a country's per-capita research spending and the proportion of researchers in that country who are women.

In 2009, of 58 countries with data available, women were on average 25% of researchers in countries spending over $150,000 on research and development per researcher per year; in countries spending less, women were on average 40% of researchers. For example, Germany spends $172,000 and has 25% women researchers; Argentina spends $52,000 and has 52% women researchers. (All values are converted from local currencies at 2009 exchange rates and adjusted for purchasing power parity. Expenditures on researchers and proportion of women researchers are based on simple headcounts, not full-time equivalents.)

4. Salary

Women scientists and engineers are, on average, paid less than their men counterparts. This holds in both academia and the private sector. It also holds in the U.S., the EU as a whole, and all individual EU member states. Statistical differences between women's and men's salaries persist when controlling for degree level, occupation, years of work experience, working hours per week, and employment sector.

  • U.S. National Science Foundation, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2011. Special Report NSF 11-309. Arlington, VA. Table 9-16 (208).

  • Meulders, D., O'Dorchai, S., Plasman, R., & Rigo, A. (2010).Meta-Analysis of Gender and Science Research Topic Report: Renger Wage Gap and Funding. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.  

  • European Commission. (2007).Renumeration of Researchers in the Public and Private Commercial Sectors. Luxembourg: Official Publications Office of the European Communities.

  • Umbach, P. (2007). Gender Equity in the Academic Labor Market: An Analysis of Academic Disciplines. Research in Higher Education, 48 (2), 169-192.

  • Toutkoushian, R.K., & Conley, V.M. (2005). Progress for Women in Academe, Yet Inequities Persist: Evidence from NSOPF- 99. Research in Higher Education, 46 (1), 1-28.

5. Funding

A. Grant Application Rates

Europe: A study of 33 EU countries found "women are less likely to apply for funding than men." Significant differences exist between countries, academic fields, and grant types; in countries with high degrees of gender equality, women’s and men’s application rates were comparable in some disciplines (European Commission, 2009; Plantenga, 2009).

U.S.: In the U.S., women and men are similarly likely to apply for early-career National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, while women are less likely to apply for late-career grants (Ley et al., 2008). In a broad study of three federal granting programs (NIH, NSF, and Department of Agriculture [USDA]), women represented 25% of researchers and applied for 21-28% of grants (Hosek et al., 2005). This suggests that women and men are similarly likely to apply for federal funding per se overall, though not necessarily similarly likely to apply for a given amount of funding—see item B.
Estimating women's and men's probability of seeking grants is challenging. Although the numbers and gender of grant applicants are collected by major granting agencies, estimating the numbers of women and men eligible to apply for a given grant is often difficult—vertical segregation means that women and men with similar academic qualifications may be positioned differently within an institution, and grant eligibility guidelines may depend on position (European Commission, 2009; Wilson et al., 2009).

B. Success Rates

In the EU, a 2009 study of 28 EU countries found that, in 21 countries, women who applied for grants were less sucessful than men who applied. (European Commission, 2009).

These data are not controlled for factors that correlate with grant success, and are not directly comparable to U.S. figures below.

In the U.S., researchers observed that, from 2003-2007, "funding success rates for nearly all [NIH] grants were essentially equal for men and women, regardless of degree" (Ley et al., 2008). Women and men were also similarly successful in obtaining NSF and USDA funding when controlled for discipline, institution, experience, and past research output (Hosek et al., 2005). However, there is controversy over methods of assessing research productivity.

C. Funding Amounts Requested and Received

In the U.S., in fiscal years 2001-2003, successful women NSF and USDA grant applicants received similar amounts of funding as their men counterparts, when controlling for factors, such as discipline, institution, experience, and past research output. Successful women NIH grant applicants received only 63% as much funding as men applicants; only 13% of the highest-value grants (in the top 1%) went to women. This disparity persists even when data are controlled for other factors. NIH public data do not reflect the amounts of funding requested by individual applicants (Hosek et al., 2005).

In a study of medical researchers at elite U.S. institutions, women at lower academic ranks both requested and received less grant funding than men. At higher academic ranks, women and men requested and received comparable amounts of funding (Waisbren et al., 2008).

  • Unidad de Mujeres y Ciencia. (2011). White Paper on the Position of Women in Science in Spain.

  • European Commission (2009). The Gender Challenge in Research Funding: Assessing the European National Scenes. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Union.
  • Plantenga, J., Remery, C., Figueiredo, H., & Smith, M. (2009). Towards a European Union Gender Equality Index. Journal of European Social Policy, 19 (1),. 19-33.
  • Wilson, J., Marks, G., Noone, L., & Hamilton-Mackenzie, J. (2009). Retaining a Foothold on the Slippery Paths of Academia: University Women, Indirect Discrimination and the Academic Marketplace. Gender and Education, 22 (5),535-545.
  • Bailyn, L. (2008). Comment on "Gender Differences in Research Grant Applications and Funding Outcomes for Medical School Faculty." Journal of Women's Health, 17 (2), 303-304.

  • Jacobsson, C. (2008). Gender and Excellence Country Report: Sweden. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

  • Ley, T., & Hamilton, B. (2008). The Gender Gap in NIH Grant Applications. Science, 322, 1472-1474.

  • Waisbren, S., Bowles, H., Hasan, T., Zou, K., Emans, S., Goldberg, C., Gould, S., Levine, D., Liberman, E., Koeken, M., Longtine, J., Nadelson, C., Patenaude, A., Quinn, D., Randolph, A., Solet, J., Ullrich, N., Weitzman, P., & Christou, H. (2008). Gender Differences in Research Grant Applications and Funding Outcomes for Medical School Faculty. Journal of Women's Health, 17 (2), 207-214.

  • Carnes, M., Geller, S., Fine, E., Sheridan, J., & Handelsman, J. (2005). National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Awards: Could the Selection Process be Biased Against Women?Journal of Women's Health, 14 (8), 684-691.

  • Hosek, S., Cox, A., Ghosh-Dastidar, B., Kofner, A., Ramphal, N., Scott, J., & Berry, S. (2005). Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

  • Blagojević, M., Bundule, M., Burkhardt, A., Calloni, M., Ergma, E., Glover, J., Groo, D., Havelková, H., Mladenić, D., Oleksy, E.H., Sretenova, N., Tripsa, M., Velichová, D., & Zvinliene, A. (2004). Waste of Talents: Turning Private Struggles into a Public Issue- Women and Science in the ENWISE Countries. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

6. Productivity

Rates of publishing and patenting are often used as measures of productivity in S&E fields. Such measures are often considered by grant evaluators and in academic and private-sector hiring and promotion decisions.

A. Publications

Women researchers publish at a somewhat lower rate than men, but differences disappear when controlled for institution type, seniority, and resources (Xie et al., 2003).

B. Patents

In a study of academic life scientists, women were found to be less likely to be named in patents than men, even when controlled for variables including "productivity, networks, field, and employer attributes." This disparity has been observed to contract over time (Ding et al., 2006). A similar disparity was observed in a study "controlling for education- and career-history variables" (Whittington et al., 2008).

When patents are assigned a "generality" score by measuring how widely they are cited across different fields, and researchers are assigned "generality scores" equal to the average scores across all patents on which they are named, women academic researchers have slightly higher generality scores than men (Whittington et al., 2005).

As is the case with publications, not all patents are of equal value. Assessing the worth of a patent—its commercial value, academic merit, etc.—is challenging (Azoulay et al., 2009). This complicates attempts to use patents as indicators of the productivity of an individual researcher.

  • Azoulay, P., Ding, W., & Stuart, T. (2009). The Impact of Academic Patenting on the Rate, Quality, and Direction of (Public) Research Output. The Journal of Industrial Economics, 57 (4), 637-676.

  • Whittington, K. (2009). Patterns of Male and Female Dissemination in Public and Private Science. In R.B. Freeman & D.F. Goroff (Eds.), Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment (pp. 195-228). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Whittington, K., & Smith-Doerr, L. (2008). Women Inventors in Context: Disparities in Patenting across Academia and Industry. Gender & Society, 22 (2), 194-218.

  • Ding, W., Murray, F., & Stuart, T. (2006). Gender Differences in Patenting in the Academic Life Sciences. Science, 313, 665-667.
  • Whittington, K., & Smith-Doerr, L. (2005). Gender and Commercial Science: Women's Patenting in the Life Sciences. Journal of Technology Transfer, 30 (4), 355-370.  
  • Xie, Y., & Shauman, K. (2003). Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



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