Similarities and Differences in the Career Trajectories of Male and Female Career Development Award Recipients

Highly competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health (called K08 and K23 grants) are awarded each year to promising and dedicated medical researchers. Recipients of these career-development awards offer investigators a unique opportunity to assess the differences between the success of men and women in academic medicine careers.

In 2009 the authors mailed surveys to 2000–2001 recipients of K08 and K23 awards to examine mid-career paths and personal characteristics. They measured success for 211 women and 378 men by receipt of a grant of more than $1 million; publishing 35 or more peer-reviewed papers; and appointment as a division chief, department chair or dean (leadership).

Key Findings:

  • Men were more successful in grants (male 56%, female 44%), publications (male 36%, female 24%) and attaining a leadership role (male 14%, female 11%).
  • Women were less likely to have received an R01 NIH grant (female 37%, male 49%) and to perceive themselves as successful (female 45%, male 59%). They were also less likely to be married and to have children.

“Gender differences in career outcomes do occur, even among a select, highly able, and motivated group,” the authors write. “Simply waiting for more women to pass through the pipeline will not bring about parity.”