The gender gap in the sciences may be closing, at least according to a study conducted by professors from Butler University and three peer institutions.
The study, published April 26 in the online journal PLOS ONE, looked at 10 years of undergraduate research at four schools: Butler, Creighton University, John Carroll University, and the University of St. Thomas. It found that male and female chemistry and physics students are producing research at the same rate.
“As we talk about how there are issues with women in science, at least at our four undergraduate institutions, we were not seeing any gender effect when it comes to the research outputs that the students are able to produce,” said Butler Chemistry Professor Anne Wilson. “That is great.”
The researchers, working together as part of a National Science Foundation grant, examined what factors affect a student to produce a research paper versus a poster versus an oral presentation. They also looked at the factors affecting students’ producing work that was presented at local, regional, and national conferences, and published in peer-reviewed journals.
Rasitha Jayasekare, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Actuarial Science at Butler, provided a detailed analysis of the data using advanced statistical models.
“It was really nice to collaborate with our colleagues from other institutions and find out that a lot of us are all doing good work with undergraduates and that we value undergraduate research,” Wilson said. “It’s not only important to do the work but to disseminate the findings and get our students out there speaking and writing and doing all the things that liberally educated students do.”
Wilson encouraged other undergraduate institutions to examination their data to see if they find a similar result. She said she had suspected that there would be no gender gap.
“It’s nice to have data to back up what you think and feel in your heart,” she said.