Women are more fairly funded in the social sciences

Accounting for academic position, women are as successful as men at winning grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and they receive grants that are actually slightly larger than those won by men.

However, women receive a smaller share of the overall funding because fewer reach senior positions, according to a new study published in Nature.

Prompted by the fact that women appear to receive smaller grants than men in the biomedical sciences, this study used ESRC data from 2008-13 on grant applications, success rates and grant award sizes to compare the differences between female and male social scientists. The results show that early career women are more successful than men and receive slightly larger grants. Similarly women professors are as successful as men, and also receive slightly larger grants.

But despite these successes, women overall received only two fifths (41%) of the £127 million allocated in this period.

While roughly half of social scientists are women, only 24% of professorial posts in the social sciences at UK universities were held by women.

The report, by an inter-disciplinary team including academics from the Departments of Health Sciences and Sociology, suggests that “the biomedical sciences in the UK may be able to learn some lessons from the social sciences”.

The fact that women are not reaching the highest positions in academia is clearly not a result of innate differences in intelligence and steps must be taken to address this persistent inequality which will have hindered scientific advances.
-Professor Paul Boyle, President & Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester and United Nations HeForShe Champion

Initiatives to improve the gender balance in senior posts and promotions are already underway at the University of Leicester. The University has been selected as only one of ten universities worldwide to be an “impact champion” for the United Nations HeForShe movement. This aims to recruit a billion boys and men involved in championing the rights of women.