Women make up 33% of the applicants who are eligible for programmes funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), but they lead only 21% of grant applications. The percentage receiving large grants of more than £2 million (US$2.8 million) remains stubbornly low: in 2014, women had a success rate of 17% compared with 44% for men. To investigate this, we informally surveyed focus groups from seven BBSRC-funded universities (see go.nature.com/wqrfz3).
All groups cited society's expectations of professional women and (unconscious) biases against them. They also specified the way in which science as a profession organizes itself and how esteem is rewarded; and dominant behaviours by full-time researchers (primarily men) that seem to attract support at the expense of more-junior, part-time or flexitime researchers (primarily women). There were perceived inconsistencies in the grant-award process, including in the quality and tone of reviewer comments and committee feedback, and concerns about gender imbalance in the reviewer pool.
The BBSRC is working with its research communities to address these issues. We welcome suggestions that could help us to achieve a more diverse and inclusive research community (see also M. Urry Nature 528, 471–473; 2015).
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McAllister, D., Juillerat, J. & Hunter, J. What stops women getting more grants?. Nature 529, 466 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/529466d