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A four-year analysis of 541 institutional “report cards” conducted by researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation’s (NYSCF) Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering (IWISE) suggest efforts to “promote and maintain” women into senior scientific roles are “largely inadequate.”

Part of the problem, the study suggests, is that institutions haven’t put in place policies that support the development of women’s careers in STEM.

The findings were published on September 5 in the journal Cell Stem Cell. 

“The data suggest that we are making headway,” Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist and director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan and contributing author, said in a statement.

“That said, there are still many institutions that have few women in senior-most faculty positions. There also remains quite a bit of room for improvement in certain areas, including the representation of women in certain roles, such as speaking at scientific meetings.”

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Retention and promotion

Women made up more than half of under-graduate, graduate and post-graduate students but those numbers started to decline as seniority increased.

According to the study, women made up:

  • 42 per cent of assistant professors
  • 34 per cent of associate professors
  • 23 per cent of full professors.

“These rates varied greatly by institution,” the study’s authors said.

“At about one-third of the institutions surveyed, women made up less than 10 [per cent] of tenured faculty recruits.”

While recruitment doesn’t appear to be an issue, the findings suggest institutions struggle to retain and promote women into senior STEM roles.

The report cards analyzed were collected when researchers applied for grants from NYSCF and were part of a project to help achieve gender parity in STEM. In total, 541 institutions in 38 countries were examined.

Read the full paper here.