There is a subset of academia that contends it lacks diversity. They have a point. While at the undergraduate levels there are lots of handicapped people, minorities, women and even Republicans, by the time grad school is finished there are fewer of all of those and at the tenure levels, not much diversity at all.

Even in medicine, where lots of women in the private sector juggle prosperous careers and families. In its academic counterpart, there aren't many women at all, and that may be costing academia valuable research talent.

The reason is obvious. Though academics claim they want to do research and dislike corporations, every lab is essentially its own corporation. They are a small business, scrambling and competing against other small businesses for the same customer - in America that is the US government. They are more corporate than most corporations and because they are small businesses, anyone who is unavailable can have a dramatic impact on productivity. It won't be overt, overwhelmingly liberal colleges are not discriminating against women or handicapped people, but when it comes to their own success, they think about the lab first.

Writing in the July issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, authors of an essay on women and academic medicine say discriminatory practices and unconscious bias continue to occur in academic medicine, despite a substantial fall in traditional discrepancies between men and women in medicine in recent years. The proportion of women entering medical school today is 53%.

"There has been a longstanding gender imbalance in clinical academia as well as laboratory-based basic medical sciences", said lead author Professor Jonathan Grant, Director of the Policy Institute at King's College London. "This inequality increases substantially with seniority, with women representing only 15% of professors in UK medical schools."

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, a co-author of the essay, said, "The lack of women participating in the clinical academic research system is likely to be implicitly biasing today's research agenda and, by consequence, tomorrow's clinical practice." She added: "The system needs to be reformed by medical schools improving the culture for and chances of women in clinical academia, through schemes such as Athena Swan. The adoption and embedding of gender neutral policies, for example flexible working, will be of benefit to all clinical academics whether women or men."

Maryse Penny ; Rosanna Jeffries ; Jonathan Grant ; Sally C Davies, 'Women and academic medicine : a review of the evidence on female representation', the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 16/04/14 DOIs