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Where are the women in social sciences?

By: Karen Arevalo Calle y Mary Vargas Arcos

Just a few days after #8M, we were reminded of the huge academic and salary gap that divides men and women. The Peruvian Institute of Economics (2022) states that this difference increased significantly from 19% in 2020 to 25% in 2021. Given this, we are encouraged to explore how this academic inequality has affected Peruvian women in the social sciences. In itself, the social sciences are a space that has historically been dominated and led by men.

The United Nations established February 11, as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. However, only women involved in the exact sciences are taken into account. Where are the women in social sciences? Their absence is due to the continuity of a modern androcentric and patriarchal system in which social sciences are not considered as part of meaningful knowledge.

Numbers don't add up

According to a joint study led by Grade, Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), Research Centre of the University of the Pacific (CIUP), and Cisepa-PUCP, half of university social sciences students are women (Alcázar & Balarín, 2018). However, it is usual to see fewer women in academic events and jobs related to these. Thus, for instance, the number of male researchers and university professors in managerial or leadership positions is twice as high as the number of women. Additionally, we can mention the academic research pay gap, with 26% of men earning high-income salaries in comparison to only 16% of women. It seems that these disparities are more visible when there are other circumstances related to their lives, such as their role as mothers, their region of origin, among others.

How can this inequality be explained?

Alcázar and Balarín (2018) agree that the persistence of gender inequality in this field of study is due to the lack of institutionalization of the Peruvian state, and the almost non-existent public policies that promote research on women and social sciences. This precarious environment also normalizes the existence of informal networks that are not very meritocratic; rather, highly masculinized and androcentric spaces where women's academic careers are called into question.

On the other hand, these divisions are also explained by the disparity of roles in the household, in such a way that extra-institutional barriers are projected that do not take into account equal conditions between men and women throughout their professional careers. In this way, subtle discrimination is applied by institutions at the time of recruitment, such as: different valuations of women's and men's work, gender stereotypes, etc. (Vargas, 2014). This leads to the invisibility and neutrality of disparities, generating unfair treatment due to the fact of "being a woman".

The impact of women in social sciences

In the face of the masculinization of academia, women have been able to gain space and fight for recognition. Figures show how before the 1990s Peruvian academic production by women represented 10%, while in the last decade it rose to 25% (Ñopo, 2014, p.149). These statistics increase even more when we refer to specific areas of study, such as education, where more than 66% of the production is created by women (Ñopo, 2014, p.150). It is necessary to point out that these achievements have been able to coexist with the imposition of motherhood and gender roles as caregivers within their families, factors that continue to reduce women's presence in these spaces.

Has the struggle for greater presence lost importance?

The continuous efforts to include and make women visible in these areas have been insufficient to achieve a society with parity. According to an ENAHO study that analyzed data from 2007 to 2012, and took into account variables such as education, age, family, the number of jobs; the salary gap between men and women in the social sciences has been reduced to almost zero, however, the gaps in employability continue to persist. The State has been legislating in favor of mitigating these, the most important law has been the N° 28983, “Equal Opportunities for Women and Men” passed in 2007. This assigns the responsibility of guaranteeing equal opportunities to various state representatives and bodies., taking into consideration the cultural and educational characteristics of women.

However, there are two important aspects that are criticized. Firstly, the law does not focus on adapting to the specific field of work of women. The generalities that are intended to be applied are disregarding the employment needs of each working group. Therefore, it is not possible to establish concrete measures, such as the establishment of a percentage gender quota in the political lists of the electoral processes given by the Law N° 30996 of “Parity and Alternation”. Again, this is because it is not based on an analysis of how the labor market behaves for social scientists. Secondly, although a report on compliance with this law is required, as part of the National Gender Equality Policy, no attempt has been made to adapt it to the current context. It has chosen to ignore the changes that have taken place not only in the labor market but also in women's living contexts. These changes have occurred gradually over the last 15 years, but the last three years, which have had a global impact, deserve sufficient attention to rethink the measures and make them more coherent.

The effectiveness of measures that seek to reduce employability and academic recognition gaps to zero cannot be assessed, because they simply do not exist. Therefore, the struggle to make women in the social sciences visible, valued, and properly remunerated is not only important but necessary. This challenge is intertwined with other struggles such as proposing safe and accessible spaces for women in politics, therefore, they could legislate from an intersectional perspective. In addition, the struggle for access to basic and higher education, sexual and reproductive rights, violence-free childhoods, must be added to this. In other words, the results will come from a horizontal, plural, and simultaneous uprising in favor of the presence of women, from their homes and schools to political positions, passing through academia.

Final thoughts

The social sciences are the protagonists of prejudices that detract them from importance and job opportunities. This is enhanced due to other negative factors for the women who choose to work in those areas. Fighting against gender inequalities in social sciences, and in academia in general, requires greater institutionalization and effective public policies to close the gap. It is also necessary to raise awareness and visibility of women in this field, in order to awaken the interest in research. Finally, it is important to transfer these questions to other disciplines where women's work, research, and performance is limited and hindered, such as the case of women in humanities. Only in this way can we begin to forge true equality for all.

Sincerely yours: Two women in social sciences.


Alcázar, L. & Balarín, M. (2018). Desigualdad en la academia: mujeres en las ciencias sociales peruanas. Grupo Sofía.

Anderson, J. (2014). Prejuicios, paradigmas y poder: explicar (y cambiar) la posición de las mujeres en las Ciencias Sociales peruanas. Bajo el radar de Sofía: Oportunidades y Barreras de las profesionales en el Perú, pp. 14-49.

Decreto supremo N° 008 -2019-MIMP de 2019 [Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables]. Decreto supremo que aprueba la Política Nacional de Igualdad de Género. 4 de abril de 2019. El Peruano.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática & Encuesta Nacional de Hogares. (2013). Informe Técnico: Evolución de la Pobreza Monetaria 2007-2012.

Instituto Peruano de Economía. (8 de marzo de 2022). Brecha salarial se incrementó fuertemente y se cerraría dentro de 50 años.

Ley Nº 28983 de 2007. Ley de igualdad de oportunidades entre mujeres y hombres. 16 de marzo de 2017.

Ley N°30996 de 2019. Por la cual se modifica la Ley Orgánica de Elecciones respecto al sistema electoral nacional. 27 de agosto de 2019.

Ñopo, H. (2014). Mujeres en las Ciencias Sociales en el Perú: avances y retos. Bajo el radar de Sofía. Oportunidades y barreras de las profesionales en el Perú, pp. 141-153.


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