Why do fewer women than men apply for grants after their PhD?
The Paper of the Month from the Society of American Archaeology is “WHY DO FEWER WOMEN THAN MEN APPLY FOR GRANTS AFTER THEIR PHDS” from the journal American Antiquity and is free to access until the end of October 2018
Why conduct a study about gender disparities in archaeological grant submissions? Various studies have documented an increase in the proportion of women in academic archaeology among early and mid-career academics. However, even though NSF success rates of men and women over the past few years were roughly equal (35% of applications submitted by women were successful, compared to 33% from men), the number of submissions from women were half that of men (270 women submitted applications from 2009-2011, compared to 542 men). The 33% representation of women in the grant submission pool seemed low to NSF’s Program Officer in Archaeology, John Yellen, and members of an Archaeology Program independent review team, Leslie Aiello (Wenner-Gren) and Melinda Zeder (Smithsonian Institution).
In an attempt to examine this discrepancy, the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) created a task force, including Lynne Goldstein and Barbara Mills (co-chairs), Sarah Herr, and Jo Burkholder. Following their appointment as co-Chairs of the SAA Task Force, Lynne Goldstein and Barbara Mills were awarded a NSF EAGER grant to conduct research on why grant submissions by senior women declined. NSF, Leslie Aiello (then Director, Wenner-Gren Foundation), and Christopher Thornton (then Lead Program Officer, National Geographic Society) provided additional critical information on grant submissions.
This project uses multiple sources of information, including demographic data from the AAA Guide to Departments of Anthropology and member surveys conducted by SAA; detailed data of funded proposals from NSF and NEH; data on funded and unfunded proposals collected for us by Wenner-Gren and the National Geographic Society, as well as several years’ data on submissions from NSF; and interviews with post-PhD women in academic archaeology to determine their funding strategies, as well as the kinds of research they undertake.
One of the study’s important findings is that although AAA demographic data show a clear increase in the number of women archaeologists in academic positions, there is a disparity of women in primary research institutions(those that provide Ph.D.’s in Anthropology). This disparity has a direct effect on grant submissions, since most women are at academic institutions with higher teaching loads and fewer graduate students. Although the reasons for this disparity cannot be determined from our study, it is a concern that must be addressed in the future.
A second trend was that women were acting pragmatically in choosing to apply for grants; we refer to this as “scaffolding.” They plan a field season, make arrangements for childcare and other priorities, and want to be able to coordinate and go into the field. NSF was seen as too great a time investment for a poor rate of return. Women often pieced together smaller grants that are faster and easier to get, so that they could make their timetable work.
A third trend is that most women told us that their grant success was a direct result of training they received as graduate students. This was surprising, since the date of the training (i.e., how many years ago) did not matter. When women were trained to submit grant proposals and mentored in how to submit them, they were far more likely to be long-term successful grant applicants.
The task force outlined a number of recommendations, and the National Geographic Society has already implemented one of these recommendations – they will now allow applicants to include dependent care costs in their budgets.
Paper Authors: Lynne Goldstein, Barbara J. Mills, Sarah Herr, Jo Ellen Burkholder Leslie Aiello Christopher Thornton