Researchers writing in Social Studies of Science say although women have begun to win more awards for their scientific achievements in the past 20 years, compared to men they win more service and teaching awards and fewer prestigious scholarly awards than would be expected from their representation in the nomination pool.
"On the face of them, awards for women may not raise concerns," the researchers said, "yet women-only awards can camouflage women's under-representation by inflating the number of female award recipients, leading to the impression that no disparities exist."
Award committees chaired by men awarded 95.1 percent of their prizes to men despite the fact that women made up 21 percent of the nomination pools, the study found.
The researchers analyzed awards given by 13 societies from the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and medicine between 1991 and 2010.
"The fact that women are honored twice as often for service as for scholarship may arise from … the tacit assumption that scientists and rigorous scholars are men, and that women are incongruent with the scientist role," the study authors wrote. "Professional societies must inform leadership and awards committees about such bias."
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