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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

"Screwed from the start": How women perceive opportunities and barriers for building a successful research career

Berggren, Asa; Almlov, Cecilia; D'Urso, Alexandra; Grubbstrom, Ann


After finishing the PhD, the researcher enters a stage in their early research career where more independence is expected. Within a relatively short time period, the researcher needs to gather research experience and support in the form of tangible resources as funding, and intangible resources like access to research networks, close collaborations, and mentorship to support their next career stage. How resources are allocated are therefore important determinants for the success of researchers. However, research shows that the resource allocation decisions in academia are biased in favor of men, with many of these gender biases that influence the success of research careers increasing. In this study, we asked women employed as early-career researchers (WECRs) about how they view their opportunities and potential for long-term success within academia, and how this relates to the resources that they have access to. We found that the WECRs were given few resources and support, and that they perceived that finding resources important for their career was up to themselves. The noticeable male dominance in who receives resources and positions within the university and the lack of women as role-models signals to WECRs that they are not wanted in academia. The WECRs suggest several ways to improve the possibilities for a successful research career for women on more equal terms as their male collegues: these include transparent processes for resource allocations, equal opportunity officers in all hiring processes, and mandatory gender training for all senior research and administrative staff. All the actions suggested are within the control of the university.


academic resource allocation; early career researchers; exclusion; gender; post docs' career; research career; success; women researchers

Published in

Frontiers in Education
2022, Volume: 7, article number: 809661