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Sapna Cheryan is cited in this article in The Conversation on the gender gap in science prizes

Minding the gender gap in science prizes

Although there are more science prizes now than ever, they aren’t distributed fairly. A new study in Nature shows that women win fewer scientific prizes than their male peers, and the prizes they do win are less prestigious and come with lower monetary value.

“Women are getting the bottom-of-the-barrel prizes,” said Brian Uzzi, a network scientist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study. That’s important because the general public doesn’t pay attention to metrics such as publication rate, citations or grant dollars: it pays attention to the prizewinners. “So the prizewinners are really the people who can raise awareness of inequities in science,” Uzzi said. “We think that’s kind of important.”

More women award winners, but disparities remain

To study gender disparities in scientific prizes, Uzzi and his team examined data on the winners of prizes in biomedicine from 1968 to 2017. Searching the web, they identified 525 prizes won by 2,738 men and 437 women. They also looked at the winners of 103 prizes conferred by five large U.S. biomedical societies.

The good news: across all 628 awards, the percentage of women prize winners increased from five per cent from 1968 to 1977 to 27 per cent in the last decade.

Nevertheless, disparities remain. Women represented only 14.6 per cent of the recipients of the awards with the biggest monetary value. Female prizewinners received on average only 64.4 per cent of every prize dollar men received. Women received 50 per cent of the service prizes (awarded for advocacy, education, mentoring, public service) but only 27 per cent of the research prizes, which are more prestigious, come with more money and are considered more important for career advancement.

Women over-represented in service awards

Because women represent less than 50 per cent of independent biomedical scientists (the relevant pool of possible candidates for these awards), they are actually over-represented in the service awards category, noted Kathleen Grogan, a genomicist and behavioural ecologist who was not involved in this study but has written about gender bias in science.

Athene Donald, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, wrote that “everything in academic science would tally with the idea that women are expected to do more service (mentoring, teaching, outreach, etc.) and so the finding that they win far more prizes under this heading does not come as a surprise.”

Scientists only have so much time, so those who bear the brunt of service work may have less time to produce award-winning research, said Sapna Cheryan, a psychologist at the University of Washington who studies gender stereotypes and factors influencing the participation of women in STEM. Encouraging men to take on more service work — things that aren’t rewarded as much but are necessary to the functioning of an organization — should free up the women to do other things, Cheryan added.

“We have to think about what it is we can do to change the behaviour of men to make sure they aren’t winning these prestigious awards because they’re taking advantage of the fact that there are other people around them who are doing more than their share of the service,” Cheryan said.

Read the entire article here.