While searching for reasons why women faculty members are underrepresented in the life sciences, researchers have looked at factors affecting the retention of female faculty, such as the ability to sustain funding. A new analysis finds that keeping the money rolling in doesn’t appear to be a factor. Of nearly 35,000 researchers who received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 1991 and 2010, men and women maintain funding at roughly the same rates.

The authors, who published their report today (July 16) in PNAS, say the results contradict a “leaky pipeline” assumption that women lose funding more frequently than men. “We found that rather than leaving the NIH funding pool at much greater rates than men, women were much more dramatically underrepresented to begin with among first-time [research project grant] holders,” they write in their study, “composing only 30.66% of investigators in the analysis.”


Coauthor Judith Greenberg, the deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, tells Science that women do just as well as men once they establish funding. “The perception that they’re not going to succeed can be a major hurdle for many women who might otherwise want to pursue a career in biomedical science,” Greenberg says. “Changing that narrative is, I think, the real bottom line of this paper.”

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