The scientific gender gap, explained by science

Why are women underrepresented in academic positions? Why do gender differences exist in publication rates? And why are the salaries of female academics lower than the salaries of their male counterparts? Here’s what science can tell us about the scientific gender gap.

Several studies shed new light on sex-based differences in publication rates and salaries, scientific top journal Nature reported earlier this week. On its news website, Nature listed three important studies that recently analyzed the scientific gender gap.

Although all three studies focused exclusively on the situation in the United States, they may help explain why achieving gender equality remains one of the greatest challenges for the academic world. These are some of the studies’ most important findings.

Male PhD students publish more papers than female PhD students.

Women tend to submit fewer manuscripts for publication during their doctoral research than men. This pattern was not only found in heavily male-dominated fields, such as engineering and physical sciences, but also in fields that are not dominated by men, such as social sciences and humanities. This could be explained by the fact that men are more likely to feel encouraged by faculty members to publish. The differences in publication rates at an early career stage may cause long-term disavantages for women in faculty hiring decisions.

For women, it takes an average 1 to 2 years longer to be promoted from associate professor to full professor in biological, biomedical, agricultural and natural sciences.

In contrast, promotion times from associate to full professor are similar for women and men in engineering and in physical and mathematical science.

The salaries of female academic physicists are 18% lower than those of their male counterparts.

Women do not negotiate as aggressively as men. In addition, men favor other men when it comes to recommendations, salaries, teaching evaluations and the writing of reference letters.


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