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Fewer, and Smaller

Women working in the biomedical sciences generally submit fewer grant applications and, when funded, receive smaller grants than their male counterparts, researchers from the University of Leicester write at Nature. At the same time, women in the social sciences are funded at rates and amounts that closely resemble their male peers. This, they note, may hold lessons on how to achieve greater equality.

A team led by Leicester's Paul Boyle examined applications to the UK Economic and Social Research Council Research Grants open call program submitted between 2008 and 2013. From this, they found that though women were less likely to apply for grants than men, men and women were equally successful in being funded.

The median amount awarded, they note, didn't differ between men and women.

In the biomedical sciences, by contrast, Boyle and his team found greater differences. Based on data from the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, they report that women in biomedical fields were even less likely to submit grant applications and their awards were typically smaller than awards made to men.

"Whether these differences are a result of endemic discriminatory practices that discourage women from applying for awards — and for larger ones — in biomedical disciplines should be the focus of intense scrutiny," the researchers say at Nature.

They further suggest that the social sciences have benefitted from an earlier embrace of feminist research-management practices and awareness of the institutionalized male culture of universities "that may be taking longer to permeate" STEM fields.

Boyle and his team add that structural changes are needed within universities and funding agencies to reduce gender inequality.