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Female academics are more likely to win awards that have been named after other notable female scientists.
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Gender Prize Gap Exists: Women in Science Are Underrepresented

Only one in eight female academics win awards named after men

University of Birmingham

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Published:Nov 22, 2023
|2 min read
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A new study shows that female academics are significantly underrepresented in winning academic prizes and having awards named after them.

Analysis of nearly 9,000 awardees and 346 scientific prizes and medals published recently in Nature Human Behaviour has found that men win eight prizes for every one won by a woman if the award is named after a man. These awards represent almost two-thirds of all scientific prizes.

Female academics are however more likely to win awards that have been named after other notable female scientists, with 47 percent of those awards going to women and 53 percent to men. Katja Gehmlich, PhD, associate professor in the Institute of Cardiovascular Science at the University of Birmingham and joint lead author of the study said, “The gender gap between awardees in scientific prizes is sadly a product of a long, systematic issue of poor representation of women in sciences. Despite decades of efforts to rebalance this issue, our study shows that women are still poorly recognized for their scientific contributions and men are far more likely to win prizes and awards, in particular, if those awards are named after other men.

It seems particularly shocking to me that awards named after women still see more than half of prizes going to men, because of how significantly skewed the data is for male-named awards where men have won 88 percent of them.”

Gehmlich added, “We further propose a list of actions to address and overcome these issues but are aware this will be a long process. The Nominate Her movement is one way that the scientific community can begin to address this.”

Stefan Krause, PhD, professor at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham and joint lead author of the study said, “Our data is indicative of much wider issues of gender inequality within sciences. Our current publication is an initial attempt to understand the causes of such striking gender inequality and to promote discussion on the subject within our scientific communities.

Research culture has a lot to do to improve the gender prize gap that we see perpetuating to this day, as well as efforts to address the disparity that sees almost two-thirds of prizes currently named after men. More radical pathways may also be needed such as renaming or getting rid of gender names associated with some awards.”

Scientific awards and prizes are key elements of the academic reward system and are indicators of relevance for the career development of scientists across all stages. Such underrepresentation exists in the highest scientific prizes, such as the Nobel, and therefore, has received substantial media attention.

- This press release was originally published on the University of Birmingham website