Report reveals New Zealand science's gender gap

By Peter Griffin 15/08/2011 6


The furore over sacked Employers and Manufacturers’ Association boss Alasdair Thompson’s comments about the productivity of working women has receded, but newly collated figures reveal the extent of the gender gap in the New Zealand science system.

According to a study released by the Association for Women in Science:

  • When science is compulsory at school, female students do well across the board but routinely choose the biological sciences above physics or chemistry when given the option.
  • Women with a BSc or PhD earn $30,000 less on average than men with the same qualification level, due to an over-representation in lower paid jobs.
  • Women are still under-represented at higher levels of University employment (Professor/Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer) although they are gaining ground at lower levels.
  • Women are also under-represented at the level of decision making and funding allocation.
  • Women scientists are not gaining the same degree of recognition as males with few awarded the top prizes in New Zealand science.

Check out the graphs below – it starts out promising with women well on top in terms of enrolments in BSc degrees and in many cases individual BSc disciplines. But you’ll notice in the following graphs that the power in New Zealand science is held predominantly by men, with women under-represented among university department heads, recipients of research funding and Fellows of the Royal Society. See the full report here.

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6 Responses to “Report reveals New Zealand science's gender gap”

  • As a woman in science none of this is particularly surprising although I guess its good to see some actual data.

    And as someone waiting on tenderhooks for this years successful Marsden applications to be announced (only another couple of months…), I’d be interested to know how many women apply compared to how many are successful. It would also be nice to know if the situation has changed at all since 2004.

  • As you slice the data you will get all sort of under- and over-representations. I bet you that Maori, Pasifika and LGBT are also under-represented. Now go to statistics on humanities and you will find the reverse situation.

  • There’s an interesting statistic in the report looking at participation in BSc courses among women by ethnicity. I was surprised that Maori women’s participation has taken a major dive, like 30 – 40 per cent down 2007 – 2009. Wonder what’s behind that…?

  • “Women with a BSc or PhD earn $30,000 less on average than men with the same qualification level, due to an over-representation in lower paid jobs.”
    It would be interesting to know if these figures include those with qualifications who no longer are working in science related jobs or unemployed.

    “Women are still under-represented at higher levels of University employment (Professor/Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer) although they are gaining ground at lower levels.”

    If women are gaining ground at lower levels then perhaps it is only a matter of time before they move through to more senior positions?

    “Women scientists are not gaining the same degree of recognition as males with few awarded the top prizes in New Zealand science.”

    I hadn’t really thought about this. Anecdotally, I’ve worked for, and around, some fairly strong and successful women in science, all of whom have been successful in terms of grants and prizes. It will be interesting to look closer at the statistics. Another example of how anecdotal “evidence” can be deceiving.

    Simonl,
    LGBT would be hard to examine statistically, as I doubt that data is gathered. Though, anecdotally, I’ve found science to be reasonably supportive of LGBT.

  • Looking at the awards section of the report, the Hector medal is actually awarded for wider fields than chemistry.
    The major awards in chemistry are the Maurice Wilkins prize and the Easterfield medal. The Easterfield medal is for younger researchers (within 10 years of their PhD completion).
    I just checked and five of the last six Easterfield awards went to women.
    Perhaps women are doing better than the report thinks (at least in chemistry)

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