Knowledge Center

Women in Science and Medicine

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—over half (52.3%) of undergraduate students completing degrees in the natural and physical sciences were women in 2016.2

In India, women made up half (50.1%) of undergraduate degree earners in science in 2015–2016.3

In 2017, slightly over a quarter (27.2%) 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.6 Women represented only 28.8% of the world’s scientists employed in research and development (R&D) in 2014.7

  • In the European Union (EU-28), women accounted for over a third (37%) of graduates of advanced research degrees (ISCED 6)8 in science and engineering.
  • Women are scarce among the upper echelons of research: in 2013, women academic staff in science and engineering made up:9
    • Grade A (senior-level) positions: 13%
    • Grade B (mid-level) positions: 24%
    • Grade C (entry-level) positions: 33%
The Number of Women Doctors Is Increasing OECD Countries10

Some countries have exceeded gender parity in medicine in 2015, including Spain (52.6%), the Netherlands (52.6%), the Czech Republic (54.5%), and Finland (57.7%).11

  • Australia (40.0%), Switzerland (40.6%), Germany (45.7%), and the United Kingdom (45.9%) were nearing gender parity among physicians.12
  • Women still only made up one in five (20.3%) doctors in Japan.13


Women Dominate the Health Fields in Canadian Higher Education14

In 2015, women made up more than three quarters (78.1%) of post-secondary graduates in health and related fields.15

  • Women’s share of medical degrees has increased dramatically in the past four decades. In 2017, women earned over half (56.8%) of MD degrees in Canada—an increase from only 12% in 1970.16
  • Over half (55.8%) of post-secondary degrees in physical and life sciences and technologies were awarded to women in 2015.17
Women Hold Less Than a Quarter of All Jobs in the Natural and Applied Sciences18

In 2016, women accounted for:19

  • Physical science professionals (31.6%).
  • Life science professionals (44.9%).
  • Physicians, dentists, and veterinarians (44.3%).
Women in Scientific Occupations Still Earn Less Than Their Male Counterparts20

Women working in natural and applied sciences occupations (including full- and part-time) earned 9.5% less than men in 2017, based on average weekly wages.21

United States

Women's Representation in the Life and Physical Sciences Has Improved22

In 2017, women accounted for over half of biological scientists (54.4%) and medical scientists23 (52.1%) in the United States.24 Among other scientific occupations, women made up:25

  • Chemists and materials scientists (38.3%)
  • Environmental scientists and geoscientists (35.8%)
  • All other physical scientists (47.3%)
More Women Than Men Are Entering Medical School26

Women are almost at parity in the early stages of their medical careers, accounting for close to half of medical school applicants (48.8%),27 matriculants (50.7%),28 and enrolled students (48.5%)29 in 2017–2018.

  • Women also made up nearly half of:
    • Medical school graduates (47.4%) in 2016–2017.30
    • Residents in specialty (45.8%) in 2015.31

However, women represented only 40.0% of physicians and surgeons in 2017.32

  • Women of color are especially underrepresented among doctors. In 2017, a small proportion of physicians and surgeons were Asian women (7.1%), Black women (4.4%), and Latinas (2.5%).33
  • Women accounted for a high share of registered nurses (89.9%) and nurse practitioners (92.2%).34

Men outnumber women in academic medicine. Just over one-third (39%) of medical school faculty were women in 2015.35

Women Physicians Are Paid Less, On Average, Than Their Male Counterparts36

Women physicians and surgeons made $0.63 to every $1 earned by their male counterparts in 2016.37

  • The pay gap is narrower for medical scientists—in the same year, women made about $0.94 to every $1 earned by men.38

Despite representing just over half of biological scientists, women still made 87.3% of the annual median earnings of their male counterparts in 2016.39

Additional Resources

Association of American Medical Colleges, “Faculty Diversity in U.S. Medical Schools: Progress and Gaps Coexist,” Analysis in Brief, vol. 16, no. 6 (2016).

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.

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.

National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 (2018).

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 Science and Medicine (June 18, 2018).