Research into gender and racial inequalities in science

Research into gender and racial inequalities in science

Research into gender and racial inequalities in science

Radboud University press release

Recent research sheds new light on persistent gender and racial inequalities in Dutch academia. The results, based on an analysis of nearly three decades of data on doctoral students from Dutch universities, show that women and ethnic minorities remain less likely to have an academic career. Race in particular is an underrevealed factor, researchers say.

Despite efforts to achieve greater gender equality in science, women are still underrepresented in permanent research positions at Dutch universities. Ethnic minorities are also underrepresented: children of guest workers from Morocco and Turkey and children of immigrants from Suriname or the Netherlands Caribbean are among the largest groups of second-generation immigrants in the Netherlands. Although they are reasonably well represented at Master’s level, they are rarely found in Dutch PhD positions.

“With this underrepresentation, scientific talent and diversity of viewpoints are lost,” says Anne-Maeke Mulders, a researcher on social inequalities in science. “We wanted to determine where underrepresentation starts and how it progresses.”

Rebuilding careers

Mölders and her colleagues collected data on all people who earned a doctorate in the Netherlands between 1990 and 2019 via NARCIS – an online database that has been used to archive Dutch scientific publications and data until 2023. “The total number was more than 95,000 people,” Mölders says. . “Then we searched NARCIS for publications by these people. This allowed us to reconstruct careers on a very large scale, from the first postdoctoral publication to the last published work of a scientist.”

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Of the more than 95,000 people, 15,000 remained active in science after obtaining their doctoral degrees. To determine the gender identity of these people, Mölders compared first names with data from the Dutch First Name Bank. “It shows the gender registered in the passport for all first names in the Dutch municipal administration,” Mulders explains. For ethnicity, the researchers did something similar: They compared surnames to data in the Surname Bank, which contains the origin of the name. Mölders: “We particularly focused on Dutch people with a Moroccan, Turkish, Surinamese or Antillean surname.”

No or shorter jobs

Analysis of the data shows that people from an ethnic minority background are under-represented in the PhD student population. Moreover, they are less likely to remain active as researchers after obtaining their doctorate, and if they continue to conduct research, they are more likely to end their careers as researchers. Gender seemed to play no role in the first step after promotion: as many men as women published their first article after promotion. But female scientists stopped publishing early. “We also looked at whether gender and racial inequality changed in the period 1990-2019,” Mulders says. “The numbers are quite stable. This indicates that efforts to increase diversity in Dutch academia have not yet borne fruit.

Cause for concern

According to Mulders, the results underscore the need to look not only at gender, but also at race as a basis for inequality in academic careers. Mulders believes this indicates a lack of support at the beginning of a research career. “We know that minorities are often exposed to negative experiences in the workplace, such as discrimination and harassment. Scientific talent and diversity of viewpoints are lost due to lack of representation. Scholars from different backgrounds ask different questions, offer a variety of methods and have diverse theoretical perspectives.

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The research article that is published in the journal Quantitative science studiesDo you think here.

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