Women are less likely to receive grants and personnel awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), according to a new study by Karen Burns of the University of Toronto, Canada, and her colleagues.

In the study, published this month in PLOS Medicineresearchers examined 55,700 grant and 4,087 personnel award applications received by CHIR between 2000 and 2015.

During the 15-year period, women submitted 31.1 per cent and 44.7 per cent of the grant and personnel applications, respectively.

“Across all 13 institutes of CIHR, women applicants were significantly less likely to win grants … and to win personnel awards,” reads a statement by the study’s authors.

“Women who directed applications to four institutes in particular (Cancer Research, Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Health Services and Policy Research, and Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis) were significantly less likely to be funded than men, while women who directed applications to the Institutes of Aboriginal People’s Health were more likely to be funded than men. The researchers did not have access to metrics that reflected applicant or peer-reviewer demographics or experience level.”

The authors say additional research is “urgently needed” to determine the cause of the gender difference.

Promotion and retention

The findings echo the results of previous studies.

Last month, data from a four-year analysis of 541 institutional “report cards” was released.

Conducted by researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation’s (NYSCF) Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering (IWISE), the findings 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.

“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.”

In the analysis, women made up more than half of under-graduate, graduate and post-graduate students but those numbers started to decline as seniority increased — possibly due to a lack of exposure to career-building opportunities.