According to a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, male scientists receive twice as much financial support to kickstart their careers in science and medicine as their female counterparts, an early career inequity that could limit professional opportunities for women scientists throughout their working lives.

Conducted by Health Resources in Action (HRiA), analysts studied 219 biomedical researchers who had applied for early-career grant funding at 55 New England hospitals, universities and research facilities between 2012 and 2014. The findings revealed male scientists received a median of $889,000 to jumpstart their careers as faculty researchers, while their female peers received just $350,000. The gap between applicants holding Ph.D.s was even wider. Men received $936,000 to launch their careers compared to the $348,000 granted to women.

As noted by Nancy Hopkins, professor emeritus of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, such a disparity in startup funds can limit women scientists’ ability to build labs, conduct analyses, publish findings, and procure grants for future research.

“These are the things that make your career hard or easy,” said Hopkins. “[Women] are going to have to work harder to make up for that.”

Despite significant contributions in STEM fields, women’s representation at the top levels of biomedical research still lags. Today, women comprise only 30 percent of funded researchers nationwide. But HRiA Vice President and author of the study, Dr. Robert Sege, Ph.D. says more examination is necessary to determine whether the gender differences are experienced by all early-career scientists.

“We were startled to see a consistent gap in the amount of support provided to men and women with the same credentials – even from within the same institutions,” said Sege. “This first look suggests the need for systematic study of gender differences in institutional support and the relationship between career trajectories.”

Media Resources: The Boston Globe 9/15/15; Health Resources in Action 9/15/15

 

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