2018 SRUK Survey on Gender Equality in Research


In 2018, SRUK circulated a survey to examine researchers’ experiences, expectations and perceptions of gender equality in Spanish institutions and collected a total of 1,295 responses among 63 research institutions in Spain. The survey, based on a previous study in the UK, highlighted women and men differences in the perception of gender equality in research. The main conclusions from this study were presented in Madrid in September 2019 in collaboration with the Cotec Foundation. Further details and its comparison with UK was published in Plos One in December 2019.

Worldwide, women represent 53% of bachelor’s and master’s graduates. Parity drops at the PhD level (43% women vs 57% men) and even more at postgraduate level, where only 28% of research positions are occupied by women (Unesco Science Report, Towards 2030). This gender gap is more noticeable at the senior level, with a lower representation of women in leadership positions and consequently in decision- and policy-making, as reported in EU (She Figures 2018) and Spain (Científicas en Cifras 2017).

In the UK, the Athena Survey of Science, Engineering and Technology (ASSET) 2016 was commissioned by The Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of Biology and The Academy of Medical Sciences and managed by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) to assess experiences, expectations and perceptions in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). In Spain, while public organisations such as the Women and Science Unit of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities publish periodic reports of statistics regarding women in research (Científicas en Cifras 2017), to the best of our knowledge, there has not been a formal assessment of perceptions on gender equality. Moreover, policies to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women have not yet being implemented systematically, in contrast to the UK, where charters such as Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) have been active for more than ten years. With this study, SRUK sought to understand gender perceptions and experiences among researchers in Spanish academic institutions, and to compare these with the perceptions of researchers working in their British counterparts.

Results from the 2018 SRUK Survey on Gender Equality in Research in Spain were presented to researchers and representatives of universities, scientific societies, scientific foundations and parliamentary groups on the 23rd of September 2019 in Madrid at Fundación Cotec and it can be checked here.

Here is some coverage about this work on the Spanish media:

The study describing gender differences in the perception of gender bias in research institutions in Spain and in the UK were published in Plos One in December 2019 and constitute the first publication from SRUK. Here are the main conclusions from this study:

  • We firstly analysed gender differences in perceptions of gender equality for 1,295 researchers from 63 Spain We found that women perceived greater gender inequality in their departments compared to men and felt they are not valued as good leaders by men.
  • Women also perceived that their departments had significantly lower commitment to promote gender equality compared to men. And many researchers feel their departments are not supportive regarding gender equality. Does Spain need an Athena Swan?
  • Women felt that resources that allow for professional development in research and that are considered as markers of esteem are more easily allocated to men. Men think these are more equally distributed between genders. 
  • We then compared the responses from Spain and UK. Compared to the UK, researchers in Spain felt that women and men are treated more equally in their workplace, yet they perceived their departments are less supportive regarding gender equality