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    Review of barriers women face in research funding processes in the UK

    Jebsen, Julie, Abbott, Cathy, Oliver, Rachel, Ochu, Erinma ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7268-278X, Jayasingh, Izzy and Gauchotte-Lindsay, Caroline (2020) Review of barriers women face in research funding processes in the UK. Psychology of Women and Equalities Review, 3 (1-2). pp. 3-14. ISSN 1466-3724

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    Abstract

    In the UK, women are underrepresented at the highest levels of academia in all subjects but Nursing, but particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) (Advance HE, 2018). Research, and the funding that enables research, is a critical point of career progression. Women apply less often and for lower amounts of funding, and are less successful than male colleagues (UK Research and Innovation, 2018). The common explanations given that women have to apply for more and more often do not sufficiently explain the gender disparities in research funding. This review critically evaluates some of the barriers and biases women face in the process of applying for research funding in the UK. Institutional barriers such as women carrying a heavier burden of teaching and academic citizenship, and lack of support, mentoring and visible role models impact on women’s success in securing research funding. Systematic barriers exist at many levels, particularly for parents and carers. These range from the impact of taking maternity leave, to grant deadlines falling during or shortly after school holidays and the requirement to travel for interviews. The focus on track record in grant review, biased language used in evaluation materials and unconscious biases on the part of reviewers further impact differentially on women. Lack of freedom to travel, and thus to network or attend conferences can result in exclusion from multinational networks and the ability of parents to demonstrate an international profile. The policies and practices that impact on the ability of women to secure research funding must be reviewed and addressed with urgency for the benefit of the research community as a whole. Introduction Barriers Women Face in Research Funding Processes 3 Women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), with increasingly lower representation from school through academic careers to Professorial level (Blickenstaff, 2005). Eagly and Carli (2007) argues that addressing the problem of recruiting, retaining and progressing women at all career levels in STEM is important as a moral value, and beyond that, increasing women’s participation in a labour market dominated by men could be worth between £15-23 billion (Women and Work Commission, 2009) to the UK economy. Metaanalyses of evidence that women do not succeed to the same extent and pace as their male equivalents show that this is not due to gender differences in intelligence or ability (Hyde, 2005; Hyde, 2016) or even, contrary to popular belief, to motherhood, but rather that the difference in academic career progression between men and women is a result of socially interpreted, cultural differences (Kandola & Kandola, 2013; Santos & Dang Van Phu, 2019; Peel, Schlachta, & Alkhamesi, 2018; Thanacoody, Bartram, Berker, & Jacobs, 2006). These differences become particularly acute for black and ethnic minority women (Jones 2006, Rollock, 2019; Royal Society, 2014), for those with disabilities (Brown & Leigh, 2018; Royal Society, 2014), and those who identify as LGBTQ+ (Gibney, 2019; Wellcome, 2020) as these marginalised groups face further systemic discrimination and career attainment gaps. We note in particular that there is very little data available in the literature or elsehwere on funding disparities faced by those whose gender identities are non-binary, or those who are trans. Intersectionality is a term which was originally coined to describe the ways in which race, gender and class combine to multiply barriers in the workplace for black, working class women (Crenshaw, 1989). This extends to academia and STEM in particular. For instance, in 2019, only 35 out 19,285 UK professors were Black women (as identified by The Higher Education Statistics Agency - HESA). Indeed black women are three times less likely to be professor than white women and half as likely as black men, demonstrating the compounding effects of intersectionality. Barriers Women Face in Research Funding Processes 4 The aim of this literature review is to critically assess the systemic barriers and biases that affect women in the processes relating to applying for and obtaining research funding, a key factor in career progression in STEM academia. Taking an intersectional approach to examining these barriers allows us to take into account how ‘race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, citizenship, ability, and age’, shapes the ‘structural dynamics of power and inequality’, including within academia (Tefera, Powers & Fischman, 2018)

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