Despite efforts to close it, the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continues. A 2018 report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicates that between 2000 and 2015, the gender gap in natural sciences associate’s degrees grew for women of all races and ethnicities, while it remained steady or grew in engineering for women of most races and ethnicities. Similarly, the report also shows that in 2015, women earned fewer than half of all bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences, computer sciences, engineering, and mathematics and statistics.
Several research centers at universities around the world study women in STEM. Their findings may have the power to close the gender gap. Read on to learn more about them.
1. The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy
Aarhus University in Denmark sponsors The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, which investigates research policy, innovation policy, and university policy and provides public authorities with research-based advice.
Consisting of 31 faculty members, the center is currently working on the Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in Research and Innovation (EFFORTI) project. A collaboration among researchers at universities in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Spain, Hungary, and Luxembourg, the EFFORTI projects aims to analyze the impacts of initiatives to improve gender equality in research and innovation. The project is analyzing 26 case studies from seven countries to reach its conclusions.
The center recently concluded its Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (STAGES) project.
STAGES, with the support of participating organizations in Denmark, Italy, Germany, Romania, and the Netherlands, sought to implement measurable changes in women’s participation in scientific research by developing action plans for various European universities and research centers. The project also produced guidelines to share with these universities and research centers.
2. Center for the Study of Inequality
The Center for the Study of Inequality, housed at Cornell University, is focused on understanding social and economic inequality. The center conducts both basic and applied research in areas such as education, law, health, and immigration.
A 2017 report sponsored by the center focused on gender in environmental studies. Titled “Green for All? Gender Segregation and Green Fields of Study in American Higher Education,” the report was published in the journal Social Problems.
The study found that although the gender gap persists in STEM disciplines, gender imbalances become less significant when disciplinary lines are redrawn. The researchers suggest that by reframing STEM disciplines by topic, such as interdisciplinary environmental studies programs, universities may alleviate the long-standing STEM gender gap.
3. Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment
Located at Stanford University, Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment focuses on developing methods for gender-based and sex-based research analysis and providing case studies of the roles gender and sex play in innovations. The research center notes that gender bias in research studies negatively impacts areas such as health care, automobile engineering, and even city planning.
Gendered Innovations includes more than 70 experts from the United States, the European Union, and Asia.
One outcome of the center’s work is a list of recommended policy changes to ensure greater gender and sex inclusivity. These recommendations are: 1) educating researchers on methods of gender-based and sex-based analysis; 2) Requiring agencies issuing research grants to make gender-based and sex-based research questions a qualifying requirement; 3) including gender-based and sex-based research activities in the evaluation criteria for researchers; 4) considering gender-based and sex-based research essential in the articles chosen for publication by journals; 5) implementing gender-based and sex-based research findings into industry products and services; and 6) integrating gender-based and sex-based research findings into educational curricula at all levels, including revamped textbooks.
4. Center for Research on Gender in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine
At the University of California, San Diego is the Center for Research on Gender in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (CRG-STEMM), which uses social science methods to study how gender shapes career opportunities in academic science, medicine, and STEM industry workplaces. Twenty-three researchers from around the world are affiliated with the center.
CRG-STEMM has completed three research studies: “The Persistence of Male Power and Prestige in the Professions: Report on the Professions of Law, Medicine, and Science & Engineering”; “The Price of Parenting in STEM: Explaining Career Paths and Pay Consequences of Parenthood among Science and Engineering Professionals”; and “Divergent Trajectories: Devotion, Excellence, and Social Inequality in Academic STEM.” The NSF was a major funder of these projects.
Ongoing are two more projects, one of which is titled “The Faculty Hiring Process for Women and Men in Academic STEM: Assessing Fairness in Evaluation Ratings and the Interview Experience.” This project is funded by the NSF and will be ongoing through 2020. The other ongoing project is “Cracks in the Glass Ceiling: A U.S.-Norway Comparison,” funded by the Norwegian Research Council.