The results come despite a gender equity push at the National Health and Medical Research Council.
We have seen this trend in our involvement in grant processes. The superficial analysis of the outcome clearly does not look good for the treatment of women however, the major disparity is people aged over 50. Many of the senior level people were in their late 60s or early 70s in some instances. This illustrates that when they were becoming researchers, in the 1960s and 1970s, there were fewer women entering sciences. This is clearly not the case for those coming through, since and this trend (in terms of gender) will disappear in the next 5-10 years. There are other structural trends and apparent biases that require the collection of more data and need closer reflection.
The funding imbalance occurred in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ‘investigator grants’, which were first awarded to individuals in late August, and was particularly severe at senior levels. Only 29.4% of senior women (5 out of 17) who applied for a grant were successful, compared with 49.3% (37 out of 75) male applicants who had the same level of experience.
“We’re putting millions of dollars into programmes and time and effort to maintain women in STEM, but then we only fund five [senior women]. It’s a poor message,” says Marguerite Evans-Galea, a molecular biologist in Melbourne and the co-founder of the non-profit association Women in STEMM Australia.
The results were released on the NHMRC’s website. Grant application success rates were more closely matched between men and women at the early- and mid-career stages, with the big discrepancy appearing for senior leaders (see ‘Who gets the grants?’). But overall, success rates were higher for men than for women (14.9% versus 11.3%), reflecting a consistent pattern in the agency’s funding outcomes since 2001. Men also received more money in total this year, partly because they won more grants than women.