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Female Faculty Underawarded Compared To Male Peers At Utah State University

In 2011, the Association for Women and Science published a paper claiming women were underrecognized when scientific organizations chose nominees and selected prominent scientists to award. 

When Dr. Helga van Miegroet, a professor emeritus at Utah State University, read the paper, she wondered if USU had the same problem.

“I gathered all the data at the level of university awards and I also went to the individual STEM colleges and asked them to provide me with the names of the recipients. So I gathered nearly 600 data points with records going back as far as 1958,” van Miegroet said.

The trends on the level of different colleges at the university showed that women are nearing parity in non-research awards.

“We see a divergent trend occurring,” van Miegroet said. “For non-research awards – teacher of the year, undergraduate mentor of the year – we see that the increases are approaching the demographic representation of women in the STEM workforce. We see a similar increase for research awards but it lags behind, which is exactly the same finding from the national study.”

But on the university-level, it’s worse.

“In the entire record of the university, only five women have ever received recognition for research achievement. Two of those are STEM women. Five women in the entire university have ever received recognition at the university level. Men are six times more likely to receive a research award than women are at the university level,” Van Miegroet said.

Research institutions like USU demand a record of research excellence for professors to obtain tenure. Mentorship, service, and teaching are not considered to be as important during tenure review. Van Miegroet worries that the underawarding of female faculty for research excellence continues to prevent their promotion to full professor.