The Huge Gender Gap in Academic Entomology

A new study by Karen Walker, a former scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, finds that women pursuing careers in entomology face persistent challenges in obtaining jobs compared to men. Entomology is the study of insects.

Dr. Walker found that among entomologists obtaining a Ph.D. between 2001 and 2018 (about 40 percent of whom were women), significantly more men than women held industry positions as technical representatives and research scientists as of 2021. Across job categories, women outpaced men only in nonfaculty university positions. Meanwhile, men published significantly more research articles than women during their graduate programs and then went on to attain higher measures of publishing volume and influence. Some 18 percent of men in the study found jobs in the year they graduated, while 12 percent of women did. Meanwhile, at five years after graduation, significantly more men than women had obtained jobs as entomology professors or in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And by 2021, while 17 men in the study had earned full-professor status in university entomology departments, just one woman had.

“Why should a woman enroll in an entomology program if she knows or finds out that she will be less successful in getting a job than if she enrolls in another STEM program?” Dr. Walker said. “What’s going to happen to university entomology programs if enrollment drops?”

A contributing factor in employment is the fact that women in the field publish fewer papers during their graduate years than their male peers, according to Dr. Walker’s research

“I think that students and early-career women in entomology should try to obtain relationships with as many potential collaborators as possible and to publish as often as possible,” Dr. Walker says. “If taking a break for parental leave or family leave, I’d encourage women to maintain as many ties with other scientists as possible and to continue doing research as possible. This might be very difficult, unfortunately. But the alternative often appears to be that the woman is viewed by potential employers as though she doesn’t have the qualifications for jobs simply because she took a break to focus on her family.”

Dr. Walker holds a Ph.D. in entomology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

The full study, “Longitudinal Career Survey of Entomology Doctoral Graduates Suggests That Females Are Disadvantaged in Entomology Job Market,” was published on the website of the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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