2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract
1068 — Gender Distribution in Research
McCarren M, Hines VA; Goldman S, Tucson VA;
The National Academies has detailed the barriers to success that women researchers face. The NIH has been studying gender distribution in its applicants and awardees and released RFA-GM-09-012 to study causal factors and interventions. The objective of this analysis is to describe, among VA researchers, gender distribution in both leadership positions and among grant recipients. Factors potentially associated with gender imbalance were investigated.
Public sources were used to obtain names of people with VA leadership positions, VA grant support, or VA-sponsored interventional clinical trials. Details of the trials and the PI’s prior publication record were also abstracted. Public sources were used to indicate probable gender based on names. Descriptive data are presented as ratio of masculine to feminine names. “Acting”, “interim”, and “deputy” positions were not included.
Among VA ORD CRADO and Service Directors, the ratio of masculine to feminine names is 3/0. Among Center Directors, the ratios are: HSR&D: 6/6; RRD: 14/1; CSP: 9/1. Among ACOS, the ratio is 49/11. Only HSR&D and CSP have publicly available data on grant recipients, so the remaining analysis focuses on these groups. For a sample of HSR&D current studies, the ratio for PIs is 36/32; for CSP studies, the ratio is 54/6. To investigate whether the lack of feminine names as CSP chairs is a “pipeline” issue, we investigated the gender balance in PIs in a sample of non-CSP VA-sponsored interventional clinical trials from the Clinicaltrials.gov database. Among these PIs, the ratio was 49/39. The genders appeared comparable on characteristics of their trials and involvement in other trials. This indicates availability of a pool of women comparable to men. Considering these non-CSP PIs as controls and the first-time CSP chairs of interventional trials as cases, the odds ratio for masculine to feminine names is 8.0 (95%CI: 2.6-24). The effect was not explained by publication history.
Women appear to be substantially under-represented in VA research as PIs and in leadership. HSR&D is a notable exception, except at the highest level.
It is incumbent upon VA to investigate and address the reasons for such disparity, as NIH has done and continues to do.