Time-to-Credit Gender Inequities of First-Year PhD Students in the Biological Sciences

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2017 Spring;16(1):ar4. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-08-0237.


Equitable gender representation is an important aspect of scientific workforce development to secure a sufficient number of individuals and a diversity of perspectives. Biology is the most gender equitable of all scientific fields by the marker of degree attainment, with 52.5% of PhDs awarded to women. However, equitable rates of degree completion do not translate into equitable attainment of faculty or postdoctoral positions, suggesting continued existence of gender inequalities. In a national cohort of 336 first-year PhD students in the biological sciences (i.e., microbiology, cellular biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, and genetics) from 53 research institutions, female participants logged significantly more research hours than males and were significantly more likely than males to attribute their work hours to the demands of their assigned projects over the course of the academic year. Despite this, males were 15% more likely to be listed as authors on published journal articles, indicating inequality in the ratio of time to credit. Given the cumulative advantage that accrues for students who publish early in their graduate careers and the central role that scholarly productivity plays in academic hiring decisions, these findings collectively point to a major potential source of persisting underrepresentation of women on university faculties in these fields.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Biological Science Disciplines / education*
  • Education, Graduate*
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Publishing
  • Research
  • Students / psychology*