The Royal Society: promoting women in science

October 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today the Royal Society is doing a Wikipedia edit-a-thon about women in science, as part of its campaign to promote women scientists (see also Wired on the topic).

Below is a graph indicating why they need promoting, especially at the highest levels. The image shows the sex ratio of Royal Society Fellows by year, since women were first allowed to join in 1945 — only a few decades after they gained the vote, and access to universities.

Note how, after an initial splurge, the rate of women joining flattened out until very recently. Note also that the number of Fellows has risen considerably since the Second World War, and most of the new additions have therefore been men.

Note also that, as of 2010, the sex ratio is still under 6%. If there were equal numbers of men and women, it would be at 50%.

At current growth rates, we can calculate that those looking for gender parity at the highest level of UK science will have to wait until the late 2080s.

The Royal Society can console itself, however: at least it’s doing better than the Nobel Prizes. Comparable figures? As of 2010:

Physiology/medicine: 5.1 %

Chemistry: 2.5%

Physics: 1.1%

How about a big-value science prize or prizes for women only? To be christened the Nobelles, of course! That might change the gender bias of science faster than any amount of Wikipedia editing.

Sex ratio 1945-2010 


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