Articles

Women in Research

By Neha Koganti and Ria Chokshi, The GTF Group

Introduction

Being denied a job, a pay increase comparable with the experience, or a promotional opportunity is a difficult situation to face for everyone. Unfortunately, historically, this is what many women have been going through. Women do not make up a significant part in the research field, which raises a major concern to all of us. They also do not receive as high of pay as men do. Many countries fail to recognize the importance of women in the world and deny them the opportunity to research and help change the world.

Despite all these disheartening facts, women have undoubtedly established an influential place in society. Women not only bring a perspective that helps create equity between the two genders but also competition and collaboration to organizations and teams. Furthermore, with women’s leadership, we can improve our businesses, societies, and the country as a whole. We wrote this article as a tribute to the numerous women in research, who have given perpetual benefits to the world.  We would give our hats off to these women on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. We decided to research this important segment, and are happy to provide our facts in this article.

Historical Data

 

When we talk about women in research, we are immediately reminded of Rosalind Franklin (Figure 1) and Katherine Johnson (Figure 2) for their major role in research. Before the 20th century, women only accounted for 7% of people who have made contributions to the community using research.

Figure 1: Rosalind Franklin, a crystallographer who laid the foundation for the understanding of DNA’s and RNA’s molecular structures

Figure 2: Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose orbital mechanics calculations played a critical role in the success of the first U.S. space flights

The number has now increased to 30%; however, this is still a comparatively small percentage. Some countries have a high percentage of women to account as their countries’ researchers, such as Bolivia with 63%, whereas other countries such as France and Ethiopia, have 26% and 8% women accounting for their researchers respectively. Furthermore, in 2017, the median annual salaries of male researchers in the U.S. was $88,000 while women researchers received a lesser pay of $70,000. Women researchers are predominantly found to work in the academic and government sectors, whereas men work mostly in the private sector, which has better salaries and opportunities. For example, in Argentina, women comprise 52% of the researchers; however, they only make up 29% of the researchers working in the private sector. This gender gap in research is likely caused by the incorrect notions that women are more biologically complicated than men and that they lack enough time as primary caretakers of young children, thus highlighting the conflict that women face as they try to balance their family and career responsibilities. To help this situation and increase the number of women in the researching field, several measures have been taken. For example, AWIS (Association for Women in Science) was founded as a global network that advances women in STEM and brings out the success in their lives by allowing women to reach their full potential, constantly keeping the goal of gaining equity of women in all employment sectors in their minds. The IWPR (Institute for Women’s Policy and Research) is also focused on building policies that close the gender inequality gap and prove the difference women can make in the world.

It is very important to encourage girls to pursue mathematics and science at a young age. In every region, women researchers remain the minority in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Republic of Korea has only 17% of researchers as women and they account for just 9% of those working in the field of engineering and technology.

The Office of Research on Women’s Health established by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to arrange the following programs:

  • Policies implemented ensuring that women and minorities are included in NIH-funded clinical research
  • Research on women’s health and sex differences has expanded.
  • Career development and mentoring programs increased the numbers of women’s health researchers.
  • Research results to be translated into health benefits for women.
  • A greater communication to be established to a variety of public audiences about sex and gender differences in basic and behavioral science, as well as in public health. The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) was founded in 1971.
  • Formation of a global network that inspires bold leadership, research, and solutions that advance women in STEM, spark innovation, promote organizational success and drive systemic change.
  • Driving excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors.
  • Guide Congress, the United Nations, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, institutions and other professional organizations on decisions and best practices to achieve gender diversity and positive system transformation in STEM.

Goals

The number and the % of women in research have increased in past decades, but we are not close to where we would like to be in this day and age. The future intention to encourage more women to research is to first conduct more research projects on women. Women will then engage in more research if more analysis on women takes place. The organization AWIS has taken the advantage to create a STEM equality organization to advocate for more women that pursue a career in STEM. Another goal that scientists are trying to do to engage more women to conduct their research is to use the empathy that women tend to have more of than men to encourage women to help the ones in need for research.

Worldwide there are only 30% of women that are in the research. This number has decreased in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic because many women are told to stay home with their children, and take care of them. This has increased the gender gap in research. During the pandemic, the more researchers available the better, but it has fallen short due to family at home. A study was reported on October 4, 2018, by the Journal of Altmetrics to see if women’s research is used more than men-authored research. It turns out that many scholars, undergraduate students, master students, and other women tend to read research conducted by women. Researchers believe this because of the way women show their research and the way they say it when people read it. Others say that it is more human-related which allows the public to relate back to it and understand the research more.

There are many nonprofit organizations that promote women in research. For example, “WIre Women in Research,” is an organization that gathers multiple women to conduct experiments or research projects for the public to view uncertainties. They not only gather women in America, but they conduct similar research around the world to compare the different conclusions that can occur in different countries. The facts show that we ought to have a better understanding of other countries and their norms. This organization not only works just with researchers, they also hold events for local families for further information about why more women are in need to project their voice in the research community.

In September 1990, largely in response to the impact of the Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, Acting NIH Director William Raub announced the creation of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH). Located within the director’s office, ORWH was given a three-part mandate:

  1. Strengthen and enhance research related to diseases, disorders, and conditions that affect women and to ensure that research conducted and supported by NIH adequately addresses issues regarding women’s health;
  1. Ensure that women are appropriately represented in biomedical and behavioral research studies supported by NIH; and
  2. Foster the increased enrollment of women in biomedical research—especially in pivotal decision-making roles within both clinical medicine and the research environment.

Another organization called ADAMHA or the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration issued special instructions to grant applicants directing that women and racial and ethnic groups be included in clinical study populations.

Conclusion

Women in research have established a crucial place in society. Women bring a perspective that values not only the equal distribution of values between the two genders but also competition, collaboration to organizations and teams. Further, with women’s leadership, we can improve not only our society but our business and the country as well. Time has now come when the World recognizes the role of hardworking women doing research.

References

https://www.rsc.org/news-events/community/2016/may/women-in-science/

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00220-y

https://www.awis.org/

https://iwpr.org/

https://www.womeninresearch.org/about-wire

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236535/

https://en.unesco.org/news/just-30-world%E2%80%99s-researchers-are-women-whats-situation-your-country

About the Authors:

Neha Koganti and Ria Chokshi are members of Global Thrombosis Forum (GTF) Group

One Comment

  1. Dear Neha and Ria,

    Congratulations on a very informative article! That’s a lot of research to get all facts in place! Very well written! :)

    We were aware of Katherine Johnson, thanks to the wonderful movie Hidden Figures, which is actually based on her! Do watch it, if you haven’t already. She was known as “the computer” at NASA, if we are not mistaken. Well, we had a human computer in India too – Shakuntala Devi. :)

    And thanks to your article, we did some research on Indian women in the field of science! And the list is endless….

    It’s heartening to see women scientists across the world starting to get recognition in their fields, the latest being the aerospace engineer Swati Mohan of NASA.

    Cheers!
    Kalyani & Nandini

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