Study Finds Women in STEM Win Fewer and Less Prestigious Awards Than Their Male Peers

A new study led by a researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has found that despite the increase in the number of science prizes given each year, women win fewer awards than their male peers and the awards they do win are less prestigious and come with lower monetary value.

The researchers examined data on the winners of prizes in biomedical fields from 1968 to 2017. In that time period there were 525 awards won by 2,738 men and 437 women. Additionally, the researchers examined the winners of 104 prizes awarded by five large biomedical societies.

Even though the percentage of women winners rose from 5 percent in 1968 to 1977 to 27 percent in the last decade, disparities still existed. Women represented only 13.8 percent of award recipients with the largest monetary value. On average, women awardees received 63.8 percent of every prize dollar men received.

Women received 50 percent of service prizes, such as awards given for advocacy, education, mentoring, and public service, but only represented 28 percent of research prizes, which are more prestigious, come with more money, and are considered more important for career advancement. The overrepresentation of women receiving service awards bolsters the idea that women are more caring and expected to do more service than men.

“Women are getting the bottom-of-the-barrel prizes,” said Brian Uzzi, a network scientist at Northwestern University, who led the study. According to Dr. Uzzi, the public really only pays attention to the person winning the award, rather than the specifics of the prize. “So the prizewinners are really the people who can raise awareness of inequities in science,” Dr. Uzzi said. “We think that’s kind of important.”

Filed Under: Research/Study


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