The theme of gender inequality is often met with resistance, from both women and men, whenever it is raised. This is perhaps due to the fact that many women worldwide are now encouraged and empowered to follow whichever career they choose, and can be seen repeatedly succeeding on their own merit. Statistically, women now account for 60% of undergraduates and 47% of PhD graduates in the EU and – according to the National Science Foundation (NSF) – they earn about half the doctorates in science and engineering in the United States. On paper, these statistics suggest that the battle against gender inequality has already been won.

However, whilst the pool of highly-qualified women is larger than ever before, the reality is that the presence of women in (predominantly STEM-based) research has not advanced at the same rate as the number of women attaining PhDs. Ultimately, this means that the research sector is not yet fully benefiting from the wealth of female knowledge and innovation available.

This paper examines the most recent statistics relating to gender in research; the reasons why women ‘drop off’ the research radar; what is currently being done to tackle the issue of gender equality in research worldwide; and what could be done to improve the percentage of women in research in the future.

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