Science, discussed.

women in research, gender equality (and salary)

Earlier today I came across the analysis by SciDev.Net about the – rather surprising – mapping of female researchers in different countries (Europe shown  below)


What surprised me the most is that the Countries having a higher percentage of  female researchers are not those, well, generally associated with better gender balance. This looks contradictory. I have come across a higher (higher, not high) percentage of female researchers in a few cases before, including when attending university in Italy (although, to be fair, this mostly applied to older generations). I often wondered what this is indicative of.

I was curious to see if any correlation exists between the percentage of women in research and 1) the “inequality index” and 2) the average salary for early stage researchers. I’ve limited the analysis to European Countries as they provide a relatively homogeneous dataset in terms of policies, university management and investment in research (I said ‘relatively‘!).


Although neither correlation is particularly strong, I wonder if any of the following could explain the distribution in the SciDev.Net map:

  1. Women that have less opportunities to access other professions (high gender inequality index) look more favourably at academia
  2. The lower salary of early career academic jobs works as a deterrent more for men than for women (also links with the previous point)
  3. A mixture of the two
  4. I’m completely off target


On an additional note, it seems that a low gender inequality score does not guarantee fair career progression to women in research, as indicated by the large distribution of the ‘male bonus’ salary gap among the lowest-scoring Countries.



I’m not much closer to understand what the number of female researchers tells about a Country’s national and academic policies, but it seems to me that individual percentages mask complex (and not necessarily straightforward) attitudes towards gender equality. And towards research as a ‘promising’ career option too.


Researchers by sex
Salary progression by experience and gender
Gender Inequality Index
Data used for the these plots (@drive)

About Pietro Gatti

Interested in discussing (good) Science Lover of coffee & good films. Ideas all & only my own.

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This entry was posted on 09/07/2014 by in policy and tagged , , , .


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