Statistical association of gender and career status in life science academia

Figure: Posterior probability densities of fraction \theta of female scientists (black curve) and professors (red curve). 95% highest density intervals are marked by dashed lines.

In Germany, the number of female professors is much smaller than expected from the number of female students and scientists, and the fraction of women in “grade A” academic positions is considerably lower than in many other European countries (see e.g. the European She Figures ). When I analysed the recently published gender report of my faculty, I saw this for the first time in numbers for my faculty. In fact, there is a strong association between gender and career status. Specfically, the Figure here shows that the fraction of female professors (red line in Figure around \theta=0.25 or 25%) in 2012 is clearly different from the fraction of female scientists (black line distributed around \theta = 0.6 or 60%) at the level of PhD students and postdocs. If you prefer a frequentist test over the Bayesian analysis shown in the Figure: when applying a Fisher’s exact test to a contingency table of  gender (female vs. male) and career status (scientists vs. professors) we obtain a p-value of 0.006 and an odds ratio of 4.48, supporting a significant association of gender and career status.

To study this association, its possible causes and effects, and ways to overcome this association, my faculty is organizing a public panel discussion (in German) on October 10, 2014 in the great lecture hall at the Essen Campus. We have invited several competent scientists from industry and academia for the panel (more about this in a later post).