I just got reviews back on a grant proposal. On the whole the reviews were positive, but one reviewer criticised us because the five PIs are all male.
The proposed project arises naturally out of a couple of strands of work that we’ve been doing recently. The PIs are the people who’ve been involved in that work, plus the CTO of an industry partner. We’re in a niche area of applied math, and neither of the institutions involved have female staff eligible for the grant scheme working in the area of our proposal.
I support efforts to fix gender imbalances in academia, and I would have preferred a mixed-gender team. However, I’m not sure what I could have done for this project. The options seem to be:
Propose a fundamentally different piece of work with different participants. However, this would likely not be of interest to the industry partner, which is central to the viability of the proposal. Our original idea would then presumably not get developed.
Expand the proposal to bring in female colleague(s) at another institution. However, the funding scheme essentially only provides the salary for one postdoc, so the benefits for PIs at additional institutions are limited. The obvious candidates are all a long-haul flight away, so day-to-day engagement would be challenging. I’m uncomfortable asking people to do work on my proposal when I can’t offer them much in exchange.
Ask someone to put their name on the proposal “for show”. Clearly offensive and counterproductive.
Does anyone have any advice on how to best reconcile diversity considerations with practical realities in these circumstances?
My question is more about the general issue – and whether there is anything I should have done differently – than about how to respond to these particular reviews.