The Lundbeck Foundation seeks greater diversity among grant recipients and prizewinners

A report on the gender distribution among the Lundbeck Foundation’s grant recipients and prizewinners has resulted in the foundation – as one of the first in Denmark – now implementing a diversity policy and working more strategically with diversity.

Men and women have almost the exact same success rate when applying for grants from the Lundbeck Foundation. However, many more men than women receive the foundation’s prizes. These are some of the conclusions in a new Gender Balance Report spanning the years 2011-17, which the Lundbeck Foundation has produced.

‘When I started reading the report, it was with some apprehension. The debate about women in research, especially under-representation in the STEM disciplines, has been a hot topic in recent years, and since we’ve never really worked strategically with diversity before, I think I was worried that the gender balance was completely off. But I was pleasantly surprised – things were not as bad as I’d feared,’ says Lene Skole, the Lundbeck Foundation’s CEO.

‘The success rates for men and women, for example, are  almost exactly the same when they apply to our programmes, but we can also see that women generally apply for and receive less funding. We can’t decide who applies to us and what amounts they apply for, but we can make sure that everyone feels welcome, and the best way to do that is to make sure that our review processes promote diversity, and I think we’re starting from a strong position as we launch specific initiatives to back up what we’re saying,’ she adds.

Better than the public funds
‘I don’t mean to disregard the fact that the report also points to a number of areas where there’s room for improvement, but fundamentally, I was surprised to find that – without doing anything in particular – we score better than most comparable granting bodies, such as the public funds,’ explains Lene Skole.

Overall, men receive more funding than women from the public research and innovation funds. Approximately one in five grants from the Danish National Research Foundation has a woman as primary grant holder, while approximately one in three holders of grants from the Danish Council for Independent Research and Innovation Fund Denmark’s 2017 talent programme were women.

New diversity policy and review panels
The Lundbeck Foundation is now revising its procedures and will take more active steps to ensure greater diversity. To begin with, the foundation has changed the composition of its review panels. The Grants & Prizes panel now comprises 50/50 men and women, while the Talent panel comprises 60% men and 40% women.

Furthermore, the foundation’s board has recently passed a diversity policy, making the Lundbeck Foundation one of the first Danish foundations to have one.
Moving forward, the wording of all announcements for grant programmes and prize nominations will be reviewed and adjusted to avoid conscious and unconscious bias before being posted.

Several weak areas
The Gender Balance Report points to several areas where there is room for improvement. The most apparent is the foundation’s prize awards. A total of 77.8% of Talent Prize winners are men, as are 85.7% or Research Prize for Young Scientists winners and 91.7 of Brain Prize winners.

‘As a modern foundation, it is unacceptable that our prizes are so sharply skewed in terms of gender. Yes, there are good, plausible explanations for why this is: for instance, men are much better at asking others to nominate them for prizes, and women are more modest when it comes to applying for grants and therefore receive on average less funding than men. But we simply can’t tolerate that. We need to change these deep-seated patterns,’ says Lene Skole.

‘That’s why we’ve decided that it’s time to take action to come closer to an equal gender ratio and greater diversity in general. We see tremendous strength in diversity, and our day-to-day work should reflect that better.

‘We’re not first-movers in this area, and we still have a way to go before achieving full diversity. For instance, we’re focusing primarily on gender to begin with, because we can see an obvious and easily realisable potential, but we will also work with diversity in a broader context. We’ve now taken the first crucial steps, and I think that with an increased awareness and new procedures, we can go far,” says Lene Skole.


Facts about the new diversity policy – this is what we did

The Lundbeck Foundation’s diversity policy was developed to ensure funding for the most talented scientists and in recognition of the fact that diversity leads to better and more innovative research. We want an effective diversity policy in keeping with the times, and have therefore asked several diversity and gender experts to read and comment on the policy. The following experts have provided feedback:

  • Mathias Wullum Nielsen, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University
  • Hilda Rømer Christensen, associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen
  • Eva Sophia Myers, team leader, Gender Equality Team, University of Southern Denmark
  • Tinna C. Nielsen, independent anthropologist and founder of Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness




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