Underrepresentation of women in the senior levels of Brazilian science: Gender Imbalance in Brazilian science

JV Valentova, E Otta, Maria Luisa da Silva, Alan McElligott

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Despite significant progress, there is still a gender gap in science all over the world, especially at senior levels. Some progressive countries are recognizing the need to address barriers to gender equality in order to retain their best scientists and innovators, and ensure research excellence and social and economic returns on the investment made by taxpayers each year on training women scientists. We investigated the gender distribution of: (i) the productivity scholarship (PS) holders of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq, N = 13,625), (ii) the members of the Brazilian Academy of Science (Academia Brasileira de Ciências, ABC, N = 899), and (iii) the amount of funding awarded for top quality research (“Universal” Call of CNPq, N = 3,836), between the years of 2013 and 2014. Our findings show evidence for gender imbalances in all the studied indicators of Brazilian science. We found that female scientists were more often represented among PS holders at the lower levels of the research ranking system (2). By contrast, male scientists were more often found at higher levels (1A and 1B) of PS holders, indicating the top scientific achievement, both in “Engineering, Exact Sciences, Earth Sciences”, and “Life Sciences”. This imbalance was not found in Humanities and Social Sciences. Only 14% of the ABC members were women. Humanities and Applied Social Sciences had a relatively low representation of women in the Academy (3.7%) compared to Engineering, Exact and Earth Sciences: 54.9% and Life Sciences: 41.4%. Finally, female scientists obtained significantly more funding at the lower level of the research ranking system (2), whereas male scientists obtained significantly more funding at the higher levels (1A and 1B). Our results show strong evidence of a gender imbalance in Brazilian science. We hope that our findings will be used to stimulate reforms that will result in greater equality in Brazilian science, and elsewhere.

© 2017 Valentova et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Original languageEnglish
Issue numbere4000
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2017


  • Women in science, Gender equality, Gender balance, Brazilian scientists, STEM, Brazilian science

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