Support for junior researchers
Every individual keen to embark on a scientific career requires funding and support. At first this is independent of gender. Various studies look into whether and to what extent junior researchers are funded and the role that gender plays within this.
Gender-specific differences in funding
Equal opportunities for men and women in physics? This question is the subject of a large-scale study by the DPG (deutsche physikalische Gesellschaft [German Physical Society]), in which 1,500 male and female physicians are asked about the course of their careers and the support they received during this time. It shows that women receive significantly less funding than men. However, there is also a not inconsiderable group of men who received little to no funding.
Graph with contributions; number of types of funding received, grouped according to gender in percentage. Two entries would mean that the person concerned received funding in two different ways, for example they were sent to conferences and also encouraged to produce their own publications. Other types of funding from the study included the opportunity to appear as a co-author of mentors’ publications and to be introduced to the scientific community.
Source: Chancengleichheit für Männer und Frauen in der Physik? Ergebnisse der Physikerinnen- und Physikerumfrage der DPG; Bärbel Könekamp, Beate Krais, Martina Erlemann, Corinna Kausch, Physik Journal I, No. 2, pp. 22-27; Weinheim, 2002
Various research career paths
The situation of PhD students in the field of chemistry is the subject of the qualitative study entitled “The Chemistry PhD: the Impact on women’s retention”. At the start of a PhD, the vast majority of students pursue a research career, but the proportion of women who wish to remain in research further down the line decreases sharply. No such effect is seen in men. The study investigates the causes of this and reaches the conclusion that research cultures and working climate are the main reasons why female junior researchers are discouraged from continuing.
Graph: percentage of men and women who want to remain in scientific research.
Source: The Chemistry PhD: the Impact on women’s retention - Reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET ; A report prepared by Jessica Lober Newsome, 2008
But isn't it the case that the particularly good and talented women stay at university? Far from it. In a very detailed study, Linzer junior researchers show that in the technical subjects, women with good grades very often leave university prematurely. The main reason for this is social discomfort: women with very good grades do not have doubts over their academic/technical abilities, but instead over whether they are in the right place at all. This situation for women in technical subjects with a very high proportion of men is described in great detail in this article.
Source: Nicole Kronberger & Ilona Horwath (2013) The Ironic Costs of Performing Well: Grades Differentially Predict Male and Female Dropout From Engineering, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 35:6, pp. 534-546, DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2013.840629
Further reading on the topic:
- Schwerpunktnummer März 2013: Women´s Work. Why is science still institutionally sexist?
- Helen Shen NATURE | VOL 495 | 7 MARCH 2013. Mind the gender gap!
- Commission Staff Working Document: Women and Science. Excellence and Innovation - Gender Equality in Science. Directorate-General for Research. 2005