Women In Science: Costs and Benefits

“Science remains institutionally sexist. Despite some progress, women scientists are still paid less, promoted less frequently, win fewer grants and are more likely to leave research than similarly qualified men.” [Nature, Mar.-7, 2013]

This is from yesterday’s special issue of Nature which prompted this tongue-in-cheek comment by Prof. Dr. Cristina Archer:

Can we put a dollar amount to how much it would cost to fill the gender gap with respect to salary disparity?

Here is the procedure:

1) N_w = number of women scientists in the US
2) S_w = average salary of the N_w women scientists in the US
3) S_m = average salary of the male scientist in the US
4) Delta = difference in salary between male and female scientists
5) Tot = total dollars that the female scientists should be receiving to fill the disparity = Delta * N_w

To get a sense of the order of magnitude, here are some values:

1) N_w = 93,400 (in 2008, from the Nature paper)
2) S_w = $60,000 (this is actually the median, not the average, in 2008)
3) S_m= $84,000 (median in 2008)
4) Delta = $24,000
5) Tot = $24,000 * 93,400 = $2,241,600,000 (yes, billions)

For the nerdy of us, I acknowledge that using the median instead of the average might give an overestimate of the final bonus, although the order of magnitude is correct.

Since the gender gap seems very expensive to fill (~$2 billions), it might be cheaper and easier to actually reduce the salary of all male scientists (N_m = 179,400). The total saved would be:

Tot2 = $24,000 * 179,400 = $4.3B (of course billions)

If that money could be donated to NSF, the benefits to research in the US would be incalculable.

So … who wants to be the first male scientist to give up 28% of his salary and start filling the gender gap?

I admit, that I was the first to volunteer.

ADDENDUM: This post is not meant to criticize any institution in any way or form. The fact that these issues are discussed openly reflects both sensitivity and progress towards a common goal of gender equality in science. There is also a student’s perspective that Allison Einolf posted here last summer which includes references to a 2011 NSF study on the issue.

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