Knowledge Center

Women in the Sciences

Data and sources for Global, Canada, and the United States.


More Women Are Pursuing Science in Higher Education1

Australia has reached gender parity in science education—half (50.1%) of undergraduate students in the natural and physical sciences were women in 2015.2

  • In India, women made up almost half (46.7%) of undergraduate students in science in 2014–2015.3
  • In 2016, slightly over a quarter (26.8%) of Japan’s undergraduate students in the physical sciences were women.4
A Leaky Pipeline Persists, Leaving Women Out of Scientific Research5

The gender gap starts to widen among PhD graduates, and peaks at the researcher level.6Women represented only 28.4% of the world’s scientists employed in research and development (R&D) in 2013.7

  • In the European Union, over a third (35%) of PhD graduates in science were women in 2010. While women held a similar representation (32%) among grade C (entry-level) science faculty, they are scarce among the upper echelons of researchers: women made up 23% of grade B (mid-level) faculty and only 11% of grade A (senior-level) faculty.8
The Number of Women Doctors Is Increasing Across the World9

Some countries have reached gender parity in medicine. Spain and the Netherlands have an equal share of men and women physicians, and the Czech Republic (55%) and Finland (57%) have actually exceeded parity.10

  • Australia (39%), Switzerland (39%), Germany (45%), and the United Kingdom (46%) are nearing gender parity among physicians.11
  • Women still make up one in five (20%) doctors in Japan.12


Women Dominate Health Professions and Related Fields in Canadian Universities13

In 2013, women made up more than three quarters (78.3%) of post-secondary graduates in health and related fields.14

  • Women’s share of medical degrees has increased dramatically in the past four decades. In 2015, women earned over half (55.1%) of MD degrees in Canada—an increase from only 12% in 1970.15
  • Over half (54.9%) of post-secondary degrees in physical and life sciences and technologies were awarded to women in 2013.16
More Women Work in the Sciences Than Ever Before17

In 2011, women made up almost half of:18

  • Physical science professionals (30.2%)
  • Life science professionals (42.8%)
  • Physicians, dentists, and veterinarians (40.3%)
Women in Scientific Occupations Still Earn Less Than Their Male Counterparts19

Women working full-time in scientific occupations earned, on average, 9% less than men.20

United States

Women Outnumber Men Among Degree Earners in the Life Sciences21

Women accounted for the following degrees earned in the United States in 2013–2014.22

  Bachelor's Master's PhD
Percentage (%) of Degrees Earned by Women in Postsecondary Institutions
Health professions and related programs 84.4 81.8 58.4
Biological and biomedical sciences 58.5 56.5 53.2
Physical sciences and science technologies 39.3 38.3 33.3


In 2015, women accounted for over half (54.9%) of medical scientists (e.g., medical researchers, toxicologists, epidemiologists) in the United States. Among other scientific occupations, women made up over a quarter of:23

  • Biological scientists (42.6%)
  • Chemists and materials scientists (36.1%)
  • Environmental scientists and geoscientists (27.5%)
  • All other physical scientists (41.4%)
Women Are More Likely Than Men to Work in Healthcare, Especially Nursing24

Women were the overwhelming majority of registered nurses (89.4%) and nurse practitioners (90.8%) in 2015.25

  • Less than half (37.9%) of physicians and surgeons were women.26

Women of color are especially underrepresented among physicians. In 2013, a small proportion of physicians were Asian women (5.4%), Black women (2.3%), and Latina women (1.9%).27

Women are near parity in early stages of academic medicine, accounting for close to half of medical school applicants (46%), graduates (48%), and residents (46%) in 2013–2014. However, women were less than half (38%) of full-time medical school faculty.28

Women Physicians Are Paid Less, On Average, Than Their Male Counterparts29

Women physicians and surgeons made $0.62 to every $1 earned by their male counterparts in 2014.30

  • The pay gap is slightly narrower for medical scientists—in the same year, women made $0.78 to every $1 earned by men.31

Pay equality is almost reached in biology. In 2014, women biological scientists made 99.1% of the annual median earnings of their male counterparts.32

Additional Resources

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Academia.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Stephen J. Ceci, Donna K. Ginther, Shulamit Kahn, and Wendy M. Williams, “Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 15, no. 3 (2014): p. 75–141.

Catherine Hill, Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (American Association of University Women, 2010).

Rachel Ivie and Susan White, “Is There A Land of Equality for Physicists? Results from the Global Survey of Physicists,” La Physique Au Canada, vol. 71, no. 2 (2015): p. 69–73.

Anika K. Warren, Checking the Pulse of Women in Bioscience: What Organizations Need to Know (Catalyst, 2011).


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Women in the Sciences. New York: Catalyst, December 22, 2016.