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Early-career academic awards and prizes should recognize outstanding scientific potential. But eligibility can often depend on biological age, representing an outdated system that is biased against women and young parents and so carries an implicit penalty for parenthood. This could be negated by using career-age criteria instead — say, within seven years of active research after completing a PhD. Applicants with periods of research inactivity would then still be eligible.
Globally, women are more likely than men to experience delays in their career progression because of parenthood (A. C. Morgan et al. Sci. Adv. 7, eabd1996 (2021); V. Valian Nature 619, 244–246 (2023); C. R. Sugimoto and V. Larivière Equity for Women in Science (Harvard Univ. Press, 2023).
As gender norms continue to shift towards men’s greater involvement in raising their children, biological-age-based eligibility stands to exclude even more potentially remarkable researchers from recognition.
Adopting career-age criteria would preserve the early-career focus of these awards, while preventing unfair competition from established researchers.