Elite male faculty in the life sciences employ fewer women
Women make up over one-half of all doctoral recipients in biology-related fields but are vastly underrepresented at the faculty level in the life sciences. To explore the current causes of women’s underrepresentation in biology, we collected publicly accessible data from university directories and faculty websites about the composition of biology laboratories at leading academic institutions in the United States. We found that male faculty members tended to employ fewer female graduate students and postdoctoral researchers (post-docs) than female faculty members did. Furthermore, elite male faculty—those whose research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, or who had won a major career award—trained significantly fewer women than other male faculty members. In contrast, elite female faculty did not exhibit a gender bias in employment patterns. New assistant professors at the institutions that we surveyed were largely comprised of postdoctoral researchers from these prominent laboratories, and correspondingly, the laboratories that produced assistant professors had an overabundance of male postdocs. Thus, one cause of the leaky pipeline in biomedical research may be the exclusion of women, or their self-selected absence, from certain high-achieving laboratories.