Disentangling women's participation in research and its relation to economic development

Summary: It is generally argued that employment is gendered biased. Women not only are underrepresented in the paid labour force, but they are also over-represented in certain types of jobs. Moreover, their proportion tends to be lower in higher positions and they are affected by gender wage gaps (Rubery and Grimshaw,2015).

The literature has also argued about the existence of gender disparities in research. These inequalities are reflected in that they have less possibilities than men to find a job (Ecklund, Lincoln and Tansey, 2012), to be promoted (Sabatier, Carrere, Mangematin, 2006) and to work in certain fields; such as, the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields (Blickenstaff, 2006).

Given these trends, the paper explores if there are connections between the gender dynamics in employment with the ones that cross-cut research. Based on data from international organizations, the investigation focuses on women ́s participation in the general and in the research labour market for a set of 53 countries, which differ in their economic development in the year 2010. Taking into consideration that the literature has highlighted a special relationship between economic development and female participation in the paid workforce, the paper analyses if this same relationship can be found between women ́s participation in research and economic development.

Regarding the first aim, the paper arrives to the preliminary conclusion that gender dynamics in employment are inversely correlated with the ones that can be found in research. In general terms, while in the general paid workforce there is a tendency to gender parity, the same cannot be argued about research. In most countries, there is a higher degree of gender inequality in the latter. This could be understood in the light of the gender unequal distribution in care time work and the fact that research is too time demanding in relation to other jobs. Moreover, the fact that less women become researchers might have intergenerational consequences as this might lead to less women in examination committees and top research positions which, following the literature on this issue, might reduce females application chances of obtaining research positions.

Regarding the second purpose of the paper, one of the preliminary results to which it arrives is that the degree of gender inequality in research seems to be related to the GDP per capita, in what can graphically be described as an inverted U-shaped pattern. A possible explanation for this figure, that needs to be explored in further investigations, could be that women ́s participation in research depends on the combined effect of the educational gender gap, the degree in which goods and services substitute unpaid care work (please see Braunstein et al, 2013), sectoral employment demand and women ́s horizontal segregation in certain types of jobs. The paper ends with a typology of countries that classifies them according to the relationship between gender inequality in research and economic development.


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