US science gender gap unpicked

Differences in publication rates and salaries analysed.

Three US studies shed light on efforts to increase diversity in academic hiring and on differences between female and male scientists’ publication rates and salaries. One study finds that female PhD holders in the United States submit and publish fewer manuscripts, including as first author, than do men. The study found lower submission and publication rates for women in physical sciences and engineering; natural and biological sciences; and applied health and social sciences (S. T. Lubienski et al. Educ. Res.; 2017). The authors analysed 1,285 responses to a survey given to recent PhD graduates from one large research institution that aimed to gauge respondents’ satisfaction with PhD programmes and measure their scholarly output.

The study authors found that, on average, men submitted 5.9 manuscripts for publication during their PhD programme, whereas women submitted 3.7. And, of the manuscripts accepted or published, more were from male than from female students, with an average of 4.9 accepted or published for men compared with 2.9 for women. The study found that men were more likely than women to report that faculty members encouraged them to publish. Its authors theorize that male PhD students might be more confident in their abilities than women are in theirs, and therefore more willing to submit their work for evaluation.

Representation increased significantly in the United States for female and Hispanic faculty members between 1992 and 2015, but more slowly for black and indigenous faculty members, according to a review (M. Gumpertz et al. PLoS ONE; 2017) of personnel records from four large US research institutions. The study also found that the time taken to be promoted from associate to full professor averaged one to two years longer for women than for men in biological and biomedical, agricultural and natural sciences.

A study of US physicists found that female academic physicists’ salaries are 18% lower on average than those of their male counterparts. The survey was conducted by the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, and reported in Physics Today (T. Feder Phys. Today 70, 24; 2017). The report says that women do not negotiate as aggressively as men and that men favour one another when it comes to recommendations, salary rises, evaluations and reference letters.

Nature 552, 140 (2017)

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