Underrepresentation of women in the engineering and physical sciences remains one of EPSRC’s largest equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) challenges, and is a well-known issue in the engineering and physical sciences community, with gender diversity in our large grant portfolio an area of particular concern.
Building on the publication of harmonised UKRI diversity data, EPSRC has undertaken a detailed analysis focused on gender to better understand the portfolio we support, linking grant size by value to award rates across our standard grants and calls. We have published our findings in the report Understanding our portfolio: a gender perspective.
The report has a focus on gender disparity in our large grant portfolio. Our aim in publishing this investigation is to share our findings with the wider engineering and physical sciences (EPS) community, raise awareness of the trends that we see as a funder, and promote discussion in the community to support positive changes across the sector. The style of the report is intended to support an open conversation with our community.
Some of the key findings of the report are that:
- women are consistently underrepresented in EPSRC’s principal investigator applicant pool across the portfolio
- the number of applications for large grants from women is particularly low
- while award rates by number of grants are similar for men and women, they are not by value of grants
- there are notable differences in the size of grants applied for across genders, with women consistently applying for smaller grants.
Findings of the ‘have your say’ community survey and next steps
Alongside the report we launched a ‘have your say’ community survey to gather reflections and perspectives from members of the EPS community.
In April 2021, Dr Katie Nicoll Baines from the Evidence Base: Growing the Big Grant Club Inclusion Matters project began a secondment with EPSRC to analyse the survey responses with a view to developing interventions to address the key findings.
These interventions have been discussed with members of the EPSRC Equality Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Advisory Group (EDI SAG) and EDI champions from EPSRC’s Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs) to refine and inform the implementation plans.
The analysis, interventions and implementation plans are presented in this report: gender diversity in our portfolio: survey findings and interventions.
The interventions suggested in the report are grouped by the identified barriers and plans for implementation. They are focused on the following:
- time: limited availability, burden of other demands and need for flexibility
- bias in the peer review process
- misconceptions about the grant application process, both pre and post award.
The interventions detailed in the report will form a key part of the EPSRC EDI action plan that will be published later in the year following on from UK Research and Innovation’s EDI strategy.
We would like to thank all those who took the time to participate in the survey and share the details of their experiences.
Additional thanks go to the members of the EDI SAG and EDI champions from the SATs who contributed to the reviewing of recommendations and shaping of the intervention and implementation plans.
Last updated: 23 March 2023