Glass ceiling persists among scientists -

Glass ceiling persists among scientists

Females with science PhDs earn up to 40% less than their male counterparts


Male scientists, across several countries, earn up to 40 per cent more than their female counterparts, according to a new study published by Nature. The journal surveyed 10,500 scientists working in industry and academia and found that men’s salaries begin significantly overtaking women’s between three and five years after completing their PhD in Europe, and between six and 10 years in North America. The wage gap ranged from 18 to 40 per cent. The countries included in the study were Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, India, Japan, Canada and the United States. In Canada the average salary for male scientists is around $80,000, while it is around $65,000 for females.

In a commentary published in the same issue of Nature, Kathleen Christensen–Director of the Workplace, Work Force and Working Families programme at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation–wrote that the gap is the result of “an aggregate effect, over many years, of accumulating inequities in resources and respect.” Women, she added, “often start their careers with slightly lower salaries, in more poorly equipped labs, with fewer graduate students, and appointments to less-prestigious committees,” and “are less likely, typically because of family reasons, to go on the job market to jockey their salaries higher.”

Related: Knocking on the glass ceiling


Glass ceiling persists among scientists

  1. What these studies fail to take into account is what fields men and women are going into. Universities pay what they must to attract faculty, so they have to pay physicists and engineers much more than social scientists. These physicist and engineers are sought after in the private sector, and paid more than social scientists in the private sector.

  2. I was thinking the exact same JimC. Not only that, but women are significantly less likely to ask for a higher salary straight up as women are more likely to believe that the initial offer is what is deserved. This article is one of the only ones I’ve ever seen on this topic to bring up a similar point, but not only are women less likely to put their jobs on the line or shop around for more money, women are less likely to just ask for it in the first place.

    So while the article highlights that the difference is up to 40% in some of the countries surveyed, using the numbers given here, that number is closer to 20% for Canada. I think if you take into account the different disciplines that men and women go into as well as how likely women are to negotiate higher salaries the issue wouldn’t seem as sensational. I am not by any means saying that discrimination does not exist, I merely think it is not as grievous as it is often made out to be.

  3. How come you never see any of these affirmative action drones complaining that the overwhelming proportion of the jail population is constituted by males? How’s that for a “glass ceiling”? Oh, let me guess, that’s just because males are evil genetically, right?

  4. I have to disagree with the previous comments, especially AB12’s statement of “you have to take into account the different disciplines that men and women go into”. Nature magazine is a science, not social science, magazine and reflects the environmental, biological and engineering sciences. I am a female Masters (soon to be PhD) student in biochemistry and in my lab in Ottawa it is 50:50 women to men, if not tipped more in the favour of female students. Women are going into the fundamental sciences more than ever before and succeeding equally as well as their male classmates. Not all female scientists are of the “social” kind.
    I do agree however that many women aren’t as aggressive as some men can be and unfortunately it seems that being aggressive is a requirement for success in academia. However there is no reason why there should be a 20-40% difference in salaries for equally qualified candidates both in academic and corporate settings.
    And to Linda Alcoff, it is not affirmative action but instead the opposite; hiring the most qualified candidate at a set salary, regardless of gender. I can only hope that by the time I graduate the playing field will be more even for all of the qualified candidates.

  5. How come there seems to be no problem with the fact that females outnumber males in university enrolment?

  6. JimC–so your assuming women go into social sciences and men to physical scientists? I’m a woman and an environmental chemist and no several female physical scientists. Maybe people’s attitudes (like yours)need to change.

  7. JimC–so you’re assuming women go into social sciences and men to physical scientists? I’m a woman and an environmental chemist and no several female physical scientists. Maybe people’s attitudes (like yours)need to change.

  8. Neither study really explains exactly how these figures are accumulated: are we comparing people even in the same field (yes, they’re all scientists, but that doesn’t mean that your average engineering prof necessarily gets paid the same as your average biology prof; even within a discipline (eg. all of physics) there may still be big differences in the fees that particular sub-fields can command), or is this just one of these flat averages that doesn’t bother to correct for any factor that might be remotely interesting? Are they looking at people with similar numbers of papers published, impact factors, years spent in studies, prestige of university, etc.?

    One of the biggest issues that seems to skew the career trajectories of women disproportionately to men is probably the child-rearing issue that the article touches on: a person who spends a significant portion of their time and energy raising children is generally not going to be as successful or productive at their career as a person who does not. Particularly in academia, this whole idea of “work-life balance” is nonsense: I’ve known numerous grad students, postdocs and professors who put in 70+ hour weeks, every week. If you’re hoping to work 35-40 hour weeks so that you can spend time with your kids, and your peers are working nearly twice as many hours per week than you, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that they’re going to advance more quickly in their careers and be able to command higher salaries. A good rule of thumb I use is this: You can have a successful career, raise a family, or be happy. Choose any two. Works for both men and women.