The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Research appropriations from a gender equality perspective (2014:27)

Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has analysed how higher education institutions allocate their research appropriations from a gender equality perspective. This is the first time a study of this kind has been carried out with respect to higher education institutions in Sweden.

Institutions with their own interest in participating

The Swedish Agency for Public Management has analysed how much funding from appropriations and research funding from external sources has been used by women and men respectively. We have also analysed allocation processes, i.e. how the higher education institutions that we examined decide on the allocation of appropriations. This knowledge should support the institutions participating in the study and serve as inspiration for other higher education institutions.

The study covers institutions that have expressed an interest in participating. Fourteen higher education institutions responded to our allocation questionnaire. We have also conducted in-depth case studies at Lund University, Linnaeus University and the University of Skövde.

Women receive less research funding than men

Women have less access to research appropriations than men at the institutions we examined. This applies both in absolute terms and in relation to the proportion of women and men among research personnel. In 2013, 39 per cent of appropriations funding was used for women's salaries and 61 per cent for men's salaries. Women accounted for 42 per cent of the research personnel at these higher education institutions. The total difference between the proportion of appropriations funding used by women and the proportion of women among research personnel is thus three percentage points, corresponding to just over SEK 80 million. In other words, women received this much less money from research appropriations compared with if all women and men had received equal amounts.

The difference between the appropriations funding received by women and men varies among the institutions examined. For the three institutions that we have studied more closely, we can also see great variations between faculties and departments. Here, we can also see that the difference between women and men is relatively stable over time, although the differences are reduced somewhat during the period examined.

Higher education research is also financed through external funding that researchers apply for from external sources such as the Swedish Research Council. The use of external research funding at the institutions examined was more gender equal as a whole than the use of appropriations funding. Here too, there are great variations between and within institutions.

Several explanations for this outcome

Our study indicates several explanations for why research funding is used by women to a lesser extent than men. The composition of research personnel is one explanation. Professors normally receive more research funding, and a majority of professors are men. There are also differences between how much research funding is available within various academic disciplines, which partly explains the outcome at the level of higher education institution.

In some cases, we have seen that men and women conduct research that is financed neither by research appropriations nor by external research funding. Senior lecturers, for example, might carry on research in the time they have for continuing professional development that is financed through the institution's appropriation for first-cycle education. The institution's processes for allocating research appropriations might also be favourable or disfavourable to women or men.

There are other factors that can explain this outcome but that we have not examined in this study. Our study does not take into account the quality of the research conducted or whether women or men generally perform better or worse based on the institutions' criteria for allocating appropriations. We are also unable to say whether the differences we have measured can be explained by women and men making different career choices, or whether the differences are an expression of discrimination or special treatment.

Gender equality is rarely among the criteria

Gender equality was rarely among the criteria used when the institutions examined allocated their research appropriations. We have only identified one case where gender equality was used as a criterion in the institutions' allocation models. The Faculty of Science at Lund University rewards departments that have promoted women to professors. Otherwise, it is above all in the case of special and time-limited ventures that the allocation of research appropriations has been based on gender equality.

Instead, the use of external research funding has to a high degree guided the allocation of research appropriations at the institutions examined. This takes place either through researchers being rewarded with appropriations for having received external research funding or through appropriations funding being used to co-finance externally funded projects.

The higher education institutions we examined consider themselves to have limited possibilities for taking gender equality into account when allocating research appropriations. This is evident from the three in-depth case studies. Gender equality is, for example, rarely viewed as a legitimate criterion. Faculties and departments that feel they have too little appropriations funding may also feel limited in their ability to control this funding strategically.

The Higher Education Act stipulates that gender equality must always be observed and promoted. However, this requirement is worded in general terms as compared with the more explicit steering to the effect that higher education institutions must allocate their appropriations funding according to quality criteria. There is also uncertainty as to what the legislation permits in the form of positive special treatment.

Institutions could analyse their activities

The higher education institutions have not themselves analysed the allocation of appropriations funding based on gender, but could do so. Our study shows that a reasonable amount of work would yield relevant and comparable data on the outcome of research appropriations allocation.

However, in order to provide a basis for this kind of analysis, the data needs to be broken down and interpreted. We therefore assesses the value of this outcome data to lie primarily in its serving as a basis for in-depth analysis and development of activities at the various faculties and departments of the higher education institutions.

A gender analysis of allocation outcome should be of great interest to higher education institutions. The amount of appropriations funding and external research funding used by women and men is an important indication of the opportunity of women and men to conduct research. By analysing allocation outcome on a gender basis, higher education institutions can ensure that the criteria they have chosen for allocating appropriations really do have an impact and that women and men are not unintentionally made subject to special treatment on the grounds of gender.