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Women miss out on academic awards if prizes named after a man

women sat down

Women are less likely to receive academic medals and prizes if the awards are named after a man – a new study reveals.

Analysis of over 9,000 awardees of scientific prizes shows that, on average, only 15.4% of recipients of the considered awards are women. This figure drops further (11.8%) if the respective prizes or medals are named after a male person.

In contrast, if awards do not bear the name of a specific individual or are named after a woman, the proportion of female recipients is considerably higher (31.8% and 46.9% respectively). These numbers are likely further confounded by the fact that many awards named after women have only been established recently.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham today presented their findings – covering awards in Earth & Environmental Sciences and Cardiology – at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly, in Vienna.

Co-author Katja Gehmlich, Associate Professor in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Birmingham, commented:

“Our analysis shows that the naming of scientific awards and prizes may be associated with a possible gender-bias in the recognition of talent. This suggests an urgent need for changes in award and nomination policies to overcome persistent gender inequalities in the recognition of scientific achievements and excellence.”

Analysis of the type of prizes and awards received by female researchers furthermore reveals that recent changes and improvements in the recognition of female scientific talent are often limited to early career, service, and mentoring awards.

Co-author Professor Stefan Krause, Chair of Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham commented:

“The urgency of overcoming gender inequalities is widely recognised in academic communities that suffer from gender pay-gaps and a lack of female representation in senior positions.

“Scientific prizes, awards and medals are important indicators of scientific excellence and also have a direct impact on career prospects, tenure and promotion procedures. Under-representation of female talent when recognizing scientific excellence therefore has wide-ranging repercussions for gender inequalities.”

Krause - gender pie

The researchers’ analysis contributes to ongoing policy discussions in their scientific societies.

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