Female researchers have less chance to get PhD grant


Member of the Flemish parliament Katia Segers has pointed out that not only are women getting proportionately less funding for grants, they also don’t represent half of the committees that make the decisions

Performance, not gender

Female graduates have less chance than their male counterparts of being awarded a grant for doctoral research, according to Katia Segers, a member of the Flemish parliament for SP.A.

Segers (pictured), who is also co-director of the Cemeso social research department at the Free University of  Brussels (VUB), gathered 6,500 applications for doctoral grant funding over the last 10 years. The results showed that male applicants had more than a 30% chance of being successful, while women had less than a 28% chance.

“There are currently more female Master’s students than male,” said Segers, “and their scores are better, yet female students have less chance of being awarded a grant by the Fund for Scientific Research.”

Grants ought to be awarded on the basis of performance and not gender, said Segers. She pointed to research by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research, which showed similar results: men are 3-4% more likely to be given a grant than women in the Netherlands.

One problem, Segers said, is the number of women sitting in the committees that judge applications: one in three rather than half. That problem, in turn, is a result of bias. “To sit on such a committee you have to have a variety of publications and research to your name,” she said, “and that’s another area where there’s a problem.”

Flemish labour minister Philippe Muyters has pledged to review the procedures of the committees, together with the Fund for Scientific Research.