19 May 2022
by Andrea Gaini

Survey prompts action to address gender gap in engineering

A survey reporting women underrepresentation in engineering and physical sciences will help to shape actions to address the issue.

woman at computer
© This is Engineering

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) says it will use the findings to explore how to deliver a number of actions – including different modes of application and unconscious bias observers in funding panels.

A majority of respondents agreed that when applying for a large grant compared to men, women are disproportionately affected by barriers such as time, bias in peer review and limited access to networks and opportunities for support.

EPSRC have detailed a set of actions, including:

  • Trialling different modes of application within specific funding opportunities.
  • Trialling unconscious bias observers in our funding panels.
  • Exploring how universities ensure diversity and fairness in their pre-selection processes for applications to EPSRC and other awarding processes.
  • Sharing good practice across higher education institutions.

Respondents to the survey represented primarily mid-career and senior career stage. Nearly two thirds of the respondents had experience of either applying to be a PI or being a current or past PI on an EPSRC grant.

Findings in the report included:

  • Women are consistently under-represented in EPSRC’s principal investigator (PI) applicant pool across our portfolio.
  • Application numbers from women for large grants are particularly low.
  • While award rates by number of grants are similar for men and women, they are not by value of grants.

There are notable differences in the size of grants applied for across genders, with women consistently applying for smaller grants.

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Andrea Gaini