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Women academics stymied by X-factor?

More women than men in Norway today are pursuing a higher education. Women comprise 46 per cent of those taking a doctoral degree, and the gender distribution is fairly equal in most subject areas.

In the social sciences and medical/health sciences, the percentage of Ph.D. students who are women is now over 50 per cent. In fact, the percentage of women has increased dramatically in all subject areas in the past 30 years.

In the past 10 years, the percentage of women in post-doctoral research positions has also been consistently high (42 to 49 per cent).

New report on academic careers and gender

Despite the solid recruitment base, there is still a significant imbalance between the genders in senior scientific positions and research management. Today 78 per cent of university professors are men, and change in the direction of better gender balance is moving very slowly.

This is one of the findings presented in the recent report entitled “Women’s and men’s career cycle in Norwegian research” (NIFU Report 9/2012, in Norwegian only), prepared by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) on commission from the Research Council.

Figure 1: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder at universities and university colleges in 2011 (all subject areas). Figure 1: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder at universities and university colleges in 2011 (all subject areas).

Variation between disciplines

The report documents major differences between disciplines. In the humanities, the sideways X appears once again, with women comprising 60 per cent of the Ph.D. students and men accounting for 70 per cent of the professors.

Figure 2: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder in the medical and health sciences in 2011.

Figure 2: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder in the medical and health sciences in 2011.

Women also dominate in the medical and health sciences, all the way up to associate professor level. However, at the professorial level, more than 70 per cent are men.

The X diagram does not appear in mathematics and the natural sciences, or within the technology fields. The reason for this that women do not reach the 50 per cent level at any step of the career ladder from Ph.D. student to professor in these fields.

The percentage of women among the Ph.D. students in mathematics and the natural sciences is about 40 per cent, while 85 per cent of the professors are men. The figures are even more dramatic within the technology fields. However, thirty years ago the percentage of women Ph.D. students in all these subject areas was down around 10 per cent, so recruitment has nonetheless changed dramatically.

Figure 3: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder in technology in 2011. Only one of four Ph.D. students and only one of 10 professors are women.

Figure 3: Percentage of women and men at various rungs of the career ladder in technology in 2011. Only one of four Ph.D. students and only one of 10 professors are women.

New initiative: BALANSE

The Research Council has proposed a new initiative designed to improve the gender balance in research with a focus on the highest levels of academia: Gender Balance in Senior Positions and Research Management (BALANSE).

The initiative will provide support to the research institutions’ own efforts and strengthen research-based knowledge in the area. The BALANSE initiative targets the entire research system, including independent research institutes, research groups in industry, research policy authorities and government administrators in the research sector.

In 2010-2011, a project was implemented to clarify and solidify the initiative together with relevant external resource persons, research institutions and ministries. The NIFU report is the result of these efforts. The complete version of the report is available in Norwegian only, but a summary has been translated into English. Both versions are available for download in the right-hand margin.

The Research Council’s budget proposal for 2013 calls for an increase of NOK 20 million for the BALANSE initiative.

 

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