Could female leaders help to fill the
gender gap
in science?

Female share in science in the US

In the US, women make up only 24% percent of the work force in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) — fields that are becoming more important in our digital era

“I entered STEM, in particular computational thinking, because it can give every single one of us super powers. We can dream up robots that save lives, improve lives, carry out physical tasks, take us places we can’t go, entertain us, and much more.”

Daniela Rus

Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
Director of MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Female share at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

147 years after Ellen Swallow joined MIT as the first female student and 14 years after Susan Hockfield became the first and only female president of MIT, we are still on the long road to parity in STEM careers.

Women make up 46% of the MIT undergraduate student body, the same share as in US colleges overall. However, we see a drop of the female share at each step of the academic career, resulting in only 19% female professors.

Can leadership help to avoid the drop?

To understand the role of leadership, we analyzed 50 labs selected from all 5 schools at MIT. Looking at more than 950 researchers we found that in labs with male leadership the female share is close to the overall female share at MIT labs: 32%. However, in led labs by women the share reaches parity and is 73% higher than in male-led labs.

As labs gets bigger, the female share decreases. Furthermore, female-led labs are on average 20% smaller than labs led by men.

“Even though female STEM researchers continue to rise to the same or higher level than their male peers, they still experience strong push-back.”

Francesca Dominici

Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Data Science and Population Health,
Co-Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative

We asked the question to several female scientists

Priyanka deSouza
PhD candidate
DUSP, MIT
Jessica Snyder
Staff Scientist
NASA
Francesca Dominici
Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics,
Data Science and Population Health,
Co-Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative
Newsha Ghaeli
President & Cofounder
Biobot Analytics