Analysis of Awarded Australian Grants by Gender


Worldwide, gender differences in the outcomes of competitive grant programs exist, though the evidence is mixed, and the nature and source of these differences remains unclear.

We examined 46, 912 grants awarded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) over 20 years.

We incorporated grant application data and workforce participation data. We deployed a statistical model that enabled us to detect nuanced patterns by simultaneously considering not only gender, but also career seniority, field of research and time.

 Key findings

Our findings point to a complex issue that extends beyond granting systems: fewer women researchers mean fewer women applicants, in turn leading to fewer women receiving grants.
  • We found that fewer awarded grants were led by women than men; however, overall success rates of grant applications did not vary according to lead investigator gender. There were fewer women than men in the research workforce. The award rate (awarded grants relative to workforce participation) was slightly higher for women than men. Most of the observed gender differences were largest at senior-career levels.
  • Gender differences in the number of awarded grants reduced over the period of the study, with the strongest temporal trend amongst senior-career researchers. Overall, success rates approximately halved over the 20-year period. The degree of decline varied by career seniority and gender.
  • Gender differences in awarded grants varied by field of research, broadly mirroring differences in application and workforce participation rates within each field of research.
  • Funding amounts per awarded grant did not vary by the gender of the lead investigator.

Together these patterns imply that fewer women in the research workforce and leading grant applications have resulted in fewer awarded grants led by women than by men.


Gender differences in awarded Australian competitive government grants mirror unequal workforce participation.

To resolve these differences, barriers to women’s entry and, more critically, retention and progression in the research workforce need to be addressed. The responsibility to remove barriers rests with several entities. Our findings inform recommendations for higher education and research institutions, government, and research funders.

The research

Our team 

Learn more about our research

We lead two research projects to examine gender equity in grant programs in the Australian research sector.

What works to improve equity in STEM

We have developed tools to guide evaluation efforts across STEM equity initiatives in Australia.