Mind the gap! Discrimination contributes to science pay disparity

Discrimination plays a significant role in the pay gap between men and women scientists working in UK universities, according to new research carried out at the University of East Anglia.

Dr. Sara Connolly, of UEA's School of Economics, has undertaken research which reveals for the first time what proportion of the pay disparity is due to women being younger, more junior or employed in different types of institution or subject areas. Her preliminary results suggest that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the pay gap is "unexplained" and may be due to discrimination against women.

"This confirms what many working women scientists have long felt," said Dr. Connolly. "My research provides sound facts and figures, rather than anecdotal evidence and hearsay, which I hope will be used to develop and implement effective policies to tackle this problem."

Dr. Connolly's findings will be presented at the BA Festival of Science on September 5 at UEA as part of a discussion on the problems facing women scientists chaired by Jenni Murray of BBC's Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Her new analysis of the latest Athena Survey of Science Engineering and Technology (ASSET) findings shows:

  • an average pay gap between men and women academics working in science, engineering and technology of 1000, rising to over 4000 for professors.
  • women only represent 29 per cent of permanent academic staff in the sciences (despite women being employed in increasing numbers in universities and gender equality existing among science students).
  • the gender gap widens with seniority with women accounting for just 16 per cent of professors in the sciences.
  • there is evidence of a 'glass ceiling'.

Women in science: fulfilment or frustration? will be held in the UEA Drama Studio on Tuesday, September 5 from 4-6 pm. Jenni Murray of BBC Woman's Hour will chair a panel including Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Oxford), Dr. Jo Dicks (John Innes Centre), Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich North MP), Dr. Irene Lorenzoni (UEA) and Prof Peter Main (Institute of Physics).

BA president, Frances Cairncross will also be launching the next Athena survey 'ASSET 2006' at this event. The survey is open to anyone working in the fields of science, engineering, technology and medicine in the UK and runs until the 20 October 2006. It is hoped the findings will identify and gain a better understanding of the differences between men and women's career progression experiences and ambitions.

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The BA Festival of Science is hosted by the University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park and Norwich City Council and will take place from September 2-9 in venues across UEA, NRP and the city of Norwich. For further information about the hundreds of events taking place during the Festival visit www.the-ba.net/festivalofscience. Tickets can be booked online, by calling 020 7019 4963, or in person at the Tourist Information Centre based in the Forum, Norwich. The BA Festival of Science is supported by the East of England Development Agency.

Notes to Editors:

1. Dr. Sara Connolly was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to conduct an in-depth analysis of the ASSET 2004 survey data. Her report Equal Measures: Investigating University Science Pay and Opportunities for Success is available on request, embargoed to September 5.

2. The Athena Project is funded independently but based at the Royal Society. More than 4000 men and women working in science, medicine, engineering, technology and related disciplines in 40 UK universities participated in the 2004 survey. For more information visit: http://www.athenaproject.org.uk/

3. For further information or to arrange pictures or interviews, please contact:

  • Dr. Sara Connolly, UEA School of Economics: 07708 834006
  • Simon Dunford, UEA Press Office: 01603 592203
  • Caroline Fox, Royal Society: 0207 4512656/07710 248272
  • Jan Anderson, UEA Survey Office: 01603 593419

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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