A bug in the sySTEM: the gender gap in science

Only 21% of tenured faculty at US medical schools are women

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Today, STAT reports that only 17% of tenured professors at Harvard Medical School are women. The scary part is that this was something to be lauded, as the school has gradually managed to increase the percentage from only 3% back in 1980. Perhaps more worrying is that this statistic fits squarely within the US national average, where only 21% of tenured faculty at medical school are women.

This result helps reinforce several recent studies that have quantified the gender imbalance in STEM fields at almost every step of the scientific enterprise. For example, in a recent Science comment, Meg Urry showed that women were increasingly lost at every step along the astronomy academic career path; and a comment in Nature found that women in STEM fields submitted fewer applications and were less successful at obtaining European funding compared to male counterparts (interestingly, no such imbalance was observed in social science funding).

On one hand, the visibility of these studies show that were we are now actively collecting and valuing empirical data showing inequality, and that we are more comfortable in publicly calling for concerted measures to help redress the imbalance. But on the other hand, the data are also telling us that there’s still a long, long way to go to solve this issue.

Michael Chao

Project Manager, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

I first developed an interest in bacterial pathogenesis while at Cornell University. I then earned my PhD in Biomedical and Biological Sciences from Harvard University in Eric Rubin’s laboratory, studying cell wall remodelling in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. From 2012-2015, I continued my training as a postdoctoral fellow in Matthew Waldor’s lab at Harvard Medical School, investigating the role of DNA methylation on regulating fundamental cellular processes in Vibrio cholerae.