Understanding the pay gap between male and female scientists

September 6, 2006

Brussels, 05 Sep 2006

Research into the pay gap between male and female scientists in the UK has found that almost a quarter of it cannot be explained by differences in factors such as age or seniority, and could be due to discrimination against women. Dr Sara Connolly of the University of East Anglia carried out a detailed analysis of data from the ASSET (Athena Survey of Science Engineering and Technology) project, which aimed to raise awareness of the barriers to women's progression in scientific careers in the UK. Over 7,000 male and female scientists from universities, research institutes and industry responded to the survey.

Dr Connolly found that women academics working in science were paid GBP 1,000 (approximately €1,500) less than their male counterparts, rising to GBP 4,000 (almost €6,000) for professors.

The study also looked at how much of the overall pay gap could be due to women being younger, more junior, or working in different sectors. The results of this analysis showed that 77 per cent of the pay gap could be explained by these factors, leaving 23 per cent unexplained. According to the report, 'this can be attributed to differences in treatment, i.e. discrimination.'

Another interesting finding from the report is where on the career ladder the glass ceiling is thickest. In higher education the glass ceiling is thickest at the transition to the professor level, while in research institutes it is the transition from a post-doctoral position to scientist. In industry it is in the middle grades. Women are also more likely to be in temporary positions than men.

Dr Connolly also underlines the need for more research into the factors influencing pay and career progression, and what kinds of environment best support and encourage female scientists. To this end, a third survey is being launched which will focus on the areas identified by Athena as being key to the differences between men's and women's experiences of a career in science, medicine and engineering.

For more information on the Athena project and to complete the ASSET 2006 survey, please visit:

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