Women are 7 to 1 more numerous than men

Women in science

On the development and proportion of women at different stages of their academic careers in Baden-Württemberg

Uwe Russ

Equal opportunities is widely seen as a major political goal. The state of Baden-Württemberg supports equal opportunities for scientists with around 4 million (million) euros annually.1,2 But even though more and more young women are taking up a university degree, completing a degree and then doing a doctorate, significantly fewer women than men remain in science and occupy management positions there less often.3 The phenomenon of women gradually leaving the scientific career is also known as the leaking pipeline effect and is taken up in numerous reports and expert reports on the situation of women in science.4 Using data from university statistics, this article describes the development of the proportion of women in various stages of academic careers in Baden-Württemberg over the last 20 years and highlights the differences and similarities between selected subjects. In particular, structured doctoral programs and junior professorships are proving to be a successful means of increasing the proportion of women in science. In the so-called postdoc phase, however, women are still more affected than men by fixed-term contracts and part-time jobs.

Already at the beginning of the new millennium, almost the same number of women and men started studying at a university in Baden-Württemberg (Figure 1). In the 1999/2000 winter semester, the proportion of women among students in the first semester was 47.4%. When entering the university in 1999, these freshmen met a largely male-dominated professorial body, because the proportion of women was 8.4%. 20 years later, the proportion of women among new students had increased to 49.8% in the 2019/20 winter semester. Although the professorships continued to consist primarily of men, the proportion of women was now 22.7%. There are a number of personal and professional decisions, opportunities and risks between starting a university course and being appointed to a professorship. The opportunities that are offered after a university degree are diverse and not all graduates are equally interested in an academic career. Nevertheless, the question remains why so few women remain in the science system and at which stages of the academic career they turn their backs on universities.

Some of the women leave the university during their studies. The proportion of women who completed their first degree in 1999 was 39.8%. However, as early as 2003, the proportion of women among first-year graduates was approaching the proportion of women among first-year students. In fact, more women than men are now completing their first degree. In 2019, the proportion of women among first-degree graduates was 52.1%. However, the real scientific career begins with a doctorate. It qualifies students for independent scientific work and is a prerequisite for scientific work at universities and non-university research institutions. In 2019, 5,764 people registered for the first time as doctoral students at a university in Baden-Württemberg with the right to award doctorates. The proportion of women was 47.7%. In 2019, a total of 30,513 people with 45.9% women were registered as doctoral students. In the same year, 4,276 people completed a doctorate, only 43.2% of them were women. 20 years earlier, however, the proportion of women among doctoral graduates was only 29.6%.

The successful completion of a doctorate depends on many factors, such as the quality of the supervision, the availability of resources and the time available to work on the doctorate. In Germany, doctorates are often completed as part of a scientific employee position at the chair or in a third-party funded project. This means that employed doctoral students can benefit from the resources and an existing professional network. In addition, they already gain specific professional experience during their doctorate, which represents a competitive advantage in subsequent applications for postdoc positions.5 However, due to teaching commitments and the participation in the chair or in the project, these doctoral candidates also have less time to devote to the actual work on the doctorate. In addition, there is a large number of structured doctoral programs that give doctoral candidates a fixed structure with regular courses, comprehensive supervision by several people and, in some cases, funding through a scholarship (i-point "Structured doctoral programs").

In 2019, 7,733 doctoral candidates were employed at the university for their doctorate in Baden-Württemberg. This corresponds to 25.3% of all doctoral candidates. The proportion of women was 38.5%. 6,018 people or 19.7% of all doctoral students were members of a structured doctoral program, with 46.3% women, whereby membership in a program and employment at the university are not mutually exclusive. One reason for the higher proportion of women in doctoral candidates in structured programs could be that admission to these programs usually takes place through an open, competitive procedure with an advertisement, whereas recruitment as scientific or artistic employees depends solely on the respective chair holder. In addition, the aforementioned funding programs could also be given greater consideration in the structured doctoral programs.

The greatest loss of women for science occurs in the post-doctoral phase and especially during the habilitation. The proportion of women doing post-doctoral qualifications rose in the last 20 years from 16.1% in 1999 to 37.4% in 2019 (Figure 1).6 In view of the proportion of female doctoral graduates and the motivation of female doctoral candidates to want to continue working in science after completing their doctorate, the universities in Baden-Württemberg are not yet fully exploiting female potential. Survey data from the National Academics Panel Study (Nacaps) suggest that 32.8% of the female doctoral candidates surveyed and 35% of the male doctoral candidates surveyed in 2019 in Germany want to continue working in science after completing their doctorate. At the same time, however, only 27.8% of women and 34.8% of men aspire to a professorship, with 36.5% of women and 33.6% of men still undecided on this point.7 It is therefore all the more gratifying that almost the same number of men and women have been appointed to the newly created junior professorships. The proportion of women among junior professors was 48.9% in 2019. Among junior professors with tenure track or with tenure track and junior research group leader it was even 54.2%.

At the same time, with the introduction of the junior professorship in 2002, the importance of the habilitation declined. From 407 habilitations in 2002, the number of habilitations fell to 265 in 2019. During the same period, the number of junior professors rose to 225. 59 of these positions were junior professors with tenure track or those with tenure track and junior research group leaders. Due to the small number of junior professors, their impact on the proportion of women among professors is still small overall. In 2019, junior professors made up just 3%, junior professors with tenure track or with tenure track and junior research group leader only 0.8% of all professorships in Baden-Württemberg (i point »junior professorship and tenure track «).

In addition to the junior professors, 30,693 other people were employed full-time as academic and artistic staff below the professorship at universities in Baden-Württemberg in 2019. This includes all full-time lecturers and assistants (1.5%), scientific and artistic staff (96.9%) and teachers for special tasks (1.6%). 9,944 of these people or 32.4% stated that their highest university degree was a doctorate, while 1,290 people or 4.2% had already completed their habilitation. 365 people or 1.2% of the scientific and artistic staff below the professorship were still in an ongoing habilitation process. A junior research group leader was held by 186 people or 0.6%. The proportion of women among the scientific and artistic staff below the professorship with the highest doctorate degree was 43.9%, among those who were in the process of habilitation 36.4% and among those who had already completed their habilitation only 24.3%. The proportion of women among the junior research group leaders below the professorship was 34.4%.

Women working in science are also more frequently affected by fixed-term contracts and part-time jobs than their male colleagues. In 2019, 25 046 people or 81.6% of the entire scientific and artistic staff below the professorship were employed at a university in Baden-Württemberg on a temporary basis. 83% of the women were in temporary employment (Figure 2).

Since the scientific and artistic staff below the professorship also include employed doctoral candidates and these are still in a time-limited qualification phase, it makes sense to only consider the next generation of scientists in the postdoc phase. In 2019, 7 185 people or 72.3% of the scientific and artistic staff below the professorship with the highest professional degree doctorate were employed at a university in Baden-Württemberg for a limited period. 76.8% of the women, but only 68.7% of the men, were employed on a fixed-term basis. Among those with the highest degree of habilitation, 411 people or 31.9% were employed at a university in Baden-Württemberg on a temporary basis. Here, however, the proportion of women with temporary contracts was somewhat lower than the proportion of men with temporary contracts (29.3% vs. 32.7%).

In addition, women are more likely to work part-time than men. In 2019, a total of 14,830 people or 48.3% of the scientific and artistic staff below the professorship were employed part-time. 60.1% of women and 40% of men were part-time (Figure 3). Among those with the highest professional qualification, 45% of women and only 18.9% of men were part-time. For those with a habilitation, it was 34.1% of women and 17.4% of men.

In 2019, 274 people were entrusted with the management of a university in Baden-Württemberg, including 73 women.8 This corresponds to a share of 26.6%. At the 25 universities entitled to doctorate, the proportion of women in university management positions was 32.3%. The university councils of the universities in Baden-Württemberg had 599 members in 2019, 257 of whom were women. This corresponds to a share of 42.9%. At universities with the right to award doctorates, the proportion of women on university councils was 49.8%.

However, the genders are already different when it comes to choosing a subject. Figure 4 shows how the proportion of women at the beginning and at the end of an academic career differs between selected fields of study, teaching and research. The 20 fields of study with the highest number of doctoral students in 2019 were selected for this purpose. These included the highest proportions of female professors in German Studies (51.2%), English Studies, American Studies (51.1%) and Psychology (43.4%) ). At the same time, these were also the fields of study in which the proportion of women was already the highest among first-degree graduates, doctoral candidates and graduates (Figure 5). Conversely, the areas of study with the lowest proportion of female professors were mostly also the areas of study with the lowest proportions of female first-degree graduates, doctoral candidates and graduates. This included, above all, the engineering sciences and the physics and astronomy study areas.

Despite large differences in the proportion of women, most areas of study show the pattern of a decline in the proportion of women with each further career level. The greatest discrepancy was found between the proportion of women among first degree graduates and the proportion of women among professors in law with 63.2% versus 21.6% and in biology with 70.3% versus 29.6% . The study areas of human medicine, psychology, German studies, economics, dentistry, chemistry and mathematics also showed a difference of over 30 percentage points between the proportion of women in first-degree graduates and the proportion of women in professors. However, there were major differences among these subjects with regard to the proportion of women among professors. While German studies and psychology had the highest proportions of women, the proportion of women among professors in human medicine was 19.2% and in chemistry 15.5%.

Acquiring a doctorate is not always aimed at pursuing an academic career. In medicine in particular, a doctorate has a different status than in most other subjects. The proportion of women among doctoral graduates in human medicine and dentistry is comparatively high and was roughly the same as the proportion of women among first-degree graduates in these fields of study. In contrast to the other fields of study, the proportion of women in the two medical fields of study therefore only drops significantly after completing their doctorate. For example, human medicine, with 39.2 percentage points, and dentistry, with 34 percentage points, showed the largest difference between the proportion of women among the doctoral graduates and the proportion of women among professors among the study areas considered here.

The proportion of women in structured doctoral programs and among the doctoral candidates who are employed at the doctoral university differs considerably between the fields of study (Figure 5). In psychology and the non-European linguistics and cultural studies, the proportion of women in structured doctoral programs was over 80% and thus well above the proportion of women among doctoral students as a whole and above the proportion of women among employed doctoral students in these fields of study. A higher proportion of women in the structured doctoral programs was also found in law (48.4%) and philosophy (45%) as well as in most engineering and natural sciences. In some areas of study, however, the proportion of women in the structured doctoral programs was also below the proportion of women among the employed doctoral students, for example in economics, history, human and dental medicine, German and English studies, American studies.

With regard to the conditions of employment in mid-level academic staff, there are also clear differences between the subjects or the teaching and research areas. While in 2019 only 7.3% of women with a doctorate as the highest professional qualification below the professorship in economics were employed for an unlimited period at a university in Baden-Württemberg, in some teaching and research areas more than 30% of women had a permanent position (Figure 6). In German studies it was even 40.5%, in English and American studies 52.5%. A comparison of these proportions with those of men shows, however, that in almost all teaching and research areas the proportion of men with permanent contracts was higher than the proportion of women with permanent contracts. The only exceptions were German studies, philosophy and computer science. The largest differences of over 20 percentage points between the proportion of women with permanent employment and the proportion of men with permanent employment were found in the teaching and research areas of electrical engineering and information technology and mechanical engineering / process engineering. Differences of more than 10 percentage points were found in chemistry, economics, psychology, civil engineering, biology and human medicine.

In three of the 20 teaching and research areas examined here, the proportion of women working full-time was around a third. In six teaching and research areas, the proportion of women working full-time was over 60%, in a further eight areas it was still over 50% (Figure 7). With the exception of teaching and research in non-European language and cultural studies, the proportion of full-time men in all other areas was higher than the proportion of full-time women.The greatest difference between men and women was found in civil engineering with a difference of over 50 percentage points. Differences of over 40 percentage points were also found in mechanical engineering / process engineering as well as in electrical engineering and information technology.

The previous analysis has shown that the proportion of women decreases with each stage of the academic career. During the doctorate, the proportion of women, especially among employed doctoral students, is lower than among doctoral students in structured programs. Research identified the causes of gender-specific self-selection in the choice of subject and the different distribution of structured doctoral forms in the subjects.9 On the other hand, reference is made to the informal recruiting practice for academic and artistic employees, in which men are preferred and women are disadvantaged.10 Female students are therefore not equally visible to the mostly male professors as suitable candidates for an employee position, as they are less likely to work as student assistants and tutors than male students, for example. In addition, the prevailing working time norms in science and the widespread use of fixed-term employment contracts prevent a work-life balance.11 The possibility of working part-time at publicly funded universities and research institutions simplifies the care of children and relatives. Long-term part-time employment, however, has a negative impact on academic careers, particularly on the careers of women.12 Some researchers therefore speak of »precarious equality«13 and of an "illusion of equal opportunities".14

From the perspective of equal opportunities, the habilitation and the subsequent appointment to a full-time professorship pose further challenges.15 On the other hand, the high proportion of women among junior professors is very promising, especially among those with tenure track, for whom a committee decides on the appointment of a junior professorship and its subsequent evaluation in a formalized application process. It is still unclear to what extent this relatively new development will affect the composition of the professorships as a whole. If the proportion of women among professors continues to develop as before over the next 20 years, then the proportion of women will be 37% in 2039 and 51% in 40 years. It will also depend on the extent to which the "leaking pipeline" can be plugged before the first appointment to a professorship. More formalized procedures, such as those common for admission to structured doctoral programs and the awarding of junior professorships, specific measures to relieve doctoral candidates and postdocs with children, targeted mentoring programs to promote young female researchers and a greater participation of female students in student assistant activities in particular in the MINT subjects16 could therefore already contribute to reducing gender inequality in the early phase of a scientific career and keep talented women in science in the long term.

1 Funding programs from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts. http://mwk.baden-wuerttemberg.de/de/forschung/forschungsfoerderung/chancengleichheit (accessed: November 25, 2020).

2 The Competence Center Women in Science and Research (CEWS) of the GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences offers an extensive list of funding programs, grants, networks, etc. www.gesis.org/fileadmin/cews/www/download/F%C3%B6rderprogramme_f%C3%BCr_Frauen_in_Wwissenschaft_und_Forschung__Stand_Juli_2020_.pdf (accessed: November 25, 2020).

3 On the underrepresentation of women in management positions in Baden-Württemberg, see also: Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration Baden-Württemberg (2020): Women in Management Positions - Opportunities and Obstacles on the Path through the Glass Ceiling, in: Gesellschaftreport BW, 3/2020 https://www.statistik-bw.de/FaFo/Familien_in_BW/R20203.pdf (accessed: November 25, 2020).

4 For example, the regularly published GWK report: Joint Science Conference (2020): Equal Opportunities in Science and Research, 24th update of the data material (2018/2019) on women in universities and non-university research institutions. Bonn: GWK.

5 This also applies to doctoral candidates who are employed at a non-university research institute. These employment relationships cannot be represented by the official statistics.

6 The strong fluctuations in the proportion of women doing habilitation are due to the low number of cases of habilitation on the one hand and the long duration of habilitation projects on the other. In 2017, the proportion of women doing habilitation was 26.3% and in 2018 it was 27.3%.

7 Calculations by the DZHW based on: Briedis, Kolja / Lietz, Almuht / Ruß, Uwe / Schwabe, Ulrike / Weber, Anne / Birkelbach, Robert / Hoffstätter, Ute (2020). Nacaps 2018: Data and method report on the National Academics Panel Study 2018 (1st survey wave - doctoral candidates). Hanover: DZHW.

8 total university management staff, i.e. rectors, presidents and vice-rectors, vice-presidents and chancellors.

9 De Vogel, Susanne (2017): How do gender and educational background influence the transition to individual and structured forms of doctoral studies? in: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 69 (3), pp. 437–471.

10 See also research overview in: Rusconi, Alessandra / Kunze, Caren (2015): Gender Relations in Science, in: Contributions to University Research, 37 (3), pp. 10-14.

11 Lange, Janine / Oppermann, Anja / Wegner, Antje (2017): Compatibility of work and family in the university and non-university research sector. Studies as part of the Federal Report on Young Scientists (BuWiN 2017). Berlin: DZHW.

12 Rusconi, Alessandra (2013). Career development in science in the context of academic partnerships, in: Contributions to University Research, 35 (1), pp. 78–97.

13 Laufenberg, Mike / Erlemann, Martina / Norkus, Maria / Petschick, Grit (eds.) (2018). Precarious equality. Gender equality, social inequality and insecure working conditions in science. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

14 Möller, Christina (2018). Precarious academic careers and the illusion of equal opportunities, in: Laufenberg, Mike / Erlemann, Martina / Norkus, Maria / Petschick, Grit (eds.). Precarious equality (pp. 257–278). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

15 See also the qualitative study: Petrova-Stoyanov, Ralitsa / Altenstädter, Lara / Wegrzyn, Eva / Klammer, Ute (2020). Excellence or advancement of women? Equal opportunity knowledge and action by professors in appointment commissions, in: Contributions to University Research, 42 (4), pp. 50–68.

16 Mathematics, computer science, natural and engineering sciences and technology.

In order to improve doctoral training in Germany, the Science Council (WR) recommended the nationwide introduction of structured doctoral programs in 2002.1 These include doctoral programs, graduate schools and graduate colleges. In contrast to individual doctorates, structured doctoral programs are characterized by the fact that they offer a fixed curriculum for their participants and have at least two of the following three characteristics: shared responsibility for supervising doctoral candidates, an open and competitive admission process with announcements, scholarships or positions for the participating doctoral candidates.

1 Science Council (2002). Recommendations for doctoral training. Cologne: Science Council.

Since the fifth amendment to the Higher Education Framework Act (HRG) in 20022 and the judgment of the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court of July 27, 20043 the junior professorship and the habilitation are equivalent qualifications for a lifetime professorship. In order to make the careers of young academics safer and more predictable, the federal and state governments launched the tenure track program to promote young academics in 2016. Tenure-track professorships are initially limited to a 6-year probationary period. Subject to a positive evaluation, these professorships will then be made permanent. A total of 1,000 tenure-track professorships will be funded at 75 universities nationwide by 2032. In the first round of approval in 2016, 65 tenure-track professorships were allocated to the universities in Baden-Württemberg. In the second approval round in 2019, another 52 tenure-track professorships were added. In addition to the goal of establishing the tenure-track professorship as an independent career path to professorship and increasing the attractiveness of academic careers, the program is also intended to improve equal opportunities in the academic system and the compatibility of work and family.

1 Fifth law amending the higher education framework law and other regulations (5th HRGÄndG) of February 16, 2002 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 693).

2 BVerfGE 112, 226-254.