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Research commissioned by a group of organisations, including the Royal Society of Biology, has found that women working in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) still experience significant career challenges compared to men.

The Athena Survey of Science, Engineering, and Technology (ASSET) looks to assess inequalities across genders in science, and this year saw over 4800 submissions from those working in higher education from more than 40 UK institutions. The report, also commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, saw the responses collated and analysed by the Equality Challenge Unit.

The research found that female STEMM academics reported having significantly more administrative duties, leaving less time to devote to research; and fewer opportunities for training and career development. On average, female respondents were found to earn a lower salary, and were less likely to hold permanent roles.

Fewer women in the survey occupied senior roles than men, with only 8.8% of the women in senior roles in academia compared to 17.6% of men who responded.

The survey also found that when compared to women respondents, men were more likely to feel supported by their line manager, benefit from mentorship, have opportunities to serve on departmental committees, and feel valued overall.

The report also presented intersectional analysis: 9.4% of BME women reported that an obstructive line manager had blocked their access to necessary career development training, compared to 6.6% of white women, 6.0% of BME men and 3.7% of white men who responded to the survey citing the same experience.

Those who did not identify as heterosexual were also underrepresented in senior roles compared to those who did; only 3.0% of LGB women and 8.8% of LGB men were professors, compared with 9.1% of women and 18.3% of men who identified as heterosexual.

The report included a number of recommendations including developing mentoring programmes for early career researchers to ensure equal career development opportunities for all, accommodating flexible working needs, and establishing a balance between teaching, research, and administrative tasks.

Dr Pat Goodwin CBiol FRSB, diversity champion for the RSB council, commented: “These findings highlight that there is still a measurable and concerning disparity between the workplace experiences of male and female academic staff working in HE institutions and for the first time the study has been extended to cover ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability status.

“We hope the report and its recommendations will stimulate institutions to ensure equality in career progression and quality of working life for all employees.”

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