This article has also ben publish by the female scientist association.
A recent report published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Diversity Landscape of the Chemical Science, put together some of the available evidence about the current state of diversity in the chemical sciences, with the particular focus on the United Kingdom. Specifically, three different parameters were taken into account: gender, disability and minority ethnicity.
Disable students accounts only for 9% of all the chemistry students. This is due to the fact that access to the chemistry lab is challenging for students with disabilities. The other reason is that is difficult to design and write science books for disable people. For example, how do we write a chemical formula in Braille?
With regard the minority ethnic students, they account only for the 20% and it has been proposed that exchange programmes, collaborations, and workshops about diversity might help in encouraging these students to undertake a chemistry degree.
When it comes to women in science, the number of data available is much higher and a deep understanding of the lower number of women in STEM is possible. Undergrad male and female chemistry students are roughly even in number. In fact, 44% of undergrads are female students. Boys and girls also perform the same and get same marks. The gender gap starts when choosing to take the next step into higher education. Only 39% of the PhD students in chemistry are female and only 9% of professors are female.
The pay gap is quite significant too. At a entry level women earn 500£ less than men and the gap raises up to 1500£ after 5 years after graduation.
Why is that so? The 2016 Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) ASSETT found that women are more ambitious than men and highlighted some of the inequalities inhibiting women’s progression. For example, 1. a higher proportion of men than women are invited to apply for promotions. 2. Women are likely to report greater teaching and administrative responsibilities than men: this impacts on their capacity to devote time to research, despite its importance for progression. 3. Men are more likely than women to have the opportunity to serve on departmental committees, to feel their department valued their research, to have access to senior departmental staff, and to have a supportive line manager. 4. The departmental culture favours men, particularly white, heterosexual men, through informal social networks that provide access to advantageous information and informal sponsorship. 5. Finally, women are more likely to get a fixed-term contract than men, who are more likely to get a permanent contract.
With regard to publications, 31% of chemistry publications have female authors. This is actually a good number compared to the engineering colleagues one, which is 21%. This is due to the fact that 1. female researchers tend to work on multidisciplinary projects; 2. women are slightly less likely than men to collaborate across academic and
corporate sectors on papers; 3.women are generally less internationally mobile than men.
Results are based upon analysis of 68,559 papers across all Royal Society of Chemistry journals, showed that, in the first two years after publication, male authors receive more citations than female authors. Also, women tend to publish in lower impact factor journals than men.
Is there any gender inequality in academia? In my opinion, this is not the case if we solely look at numbers. I believe that it a women choice to decide to carry forward with higher education and take the next step into a professorship. The number of female authors for academic paper is also a good sign. Women are underrepresented in science, only 35% of all PhD students and 9% of female professors in chemistry are women, and yet they account for 35% of authors. I believe this is very positive and it does show that women in science do produce good research and contribute significantly to push the boundaries of knowledge.
The inequalities and discrimination come across when it comes to promotions and terms of contract. Why do men have higher recommendations to get a promotion and more likely to get a permanent job? This is disparity and inequality. This is the mentality that has to change for encouraging more women to get into science and to make academia a suitable place for women.
Please check out my previous article about the international day of women and girls in science.