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Despite Progress, Gender Parity in Scientific Paper Authorship and Senior Appointments Continues to Elude Women

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Palácio da Alvorada, Homologação do tombamento de obras do Niemeyer, Brasília, DF, Brazil, June 21, 2011 | © Courtesy of Ichiro Guerra/Ministério da Cultura/Flickr.

Though gender diversity and women’s involvement in science can be expected to contribute to knowledge creation and scientific discoveries, female scientists remain a minority in multiple scholarly fields, such as those related to science, technology and mathematics, both as authors of scientific articles and as holders of senior positions in academia. At the same time, attitudes toward Open Access journals have not been found to be affected by gender. Additionally, the gender gap is likely to be larger in countries such as Germany and Japan and less pronounced in countries such as Brazil.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Recent studies indicate, such as the article by Carr et al. published in 2015, that women have represented only 20% of full-time faculty members across various scientific domains in the United States (US). This shows a relatively limited gender diversity in terms of academic appointments at research universities in this country, as gender parity continues to be elusive in terms of women’s senior faculty and leadership position appointments. In the United States, female scientists may struggle to have equal compensation, to stay in tenure-track career paths and to have a work-life balance, due to child-care responsibilities. Globally women also tend to be severely underrepresented among scholarly journal editors, as solely circa 10% of editors are female in some fields, such as Prof. Sally Seidel from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico, US, that serves as an Editor-in-Chief at Open Physics.

This gender gap has also been found in relation to scientific paper authorship, as Holman, Stuart-Fox and Hauser argue in their paper, published in 2018, that intergenerational effects are likely to lead to the unequal representation of women in some scholarly fields, such as technology and engineering, even though gender parity has been found to be improving in science in general and already present in some scientific domains, as part of growing gender equality in recent years. It was also found that peer-reviewed Open Access journals tend to have more female authors than non-Open Access counterparts. Whereas this study has found that Switzerland, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and Japan have relatively lower rates of article authorship by women, overall South American, European and African countries have demonstrated high levels of gender parity in terms of scholarly paper authorship.

In this respect, the recent appointment of Prof. Beatriz Leonor Silveira Barbuy, a scholar specializing in spectroscopy, globular clusters, and stellar evolution, to the position of the Editor-in-Chief of Open Astronomy, an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal, appears to demonstrate this tendency. Prof. Barbuy is a highly regarded scholar in the field of astronomy, is among the few winners of the 2009 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science and her publications enjoy a high level of citation impact, according to the Hirsch index (H-Index=53).

Moreover, for over 30 years Prof. Barbuy has been a full professor at the globally leading Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences (IAG), Brazil. With multiple visiting scholar appointments in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France, she has also been involved in international collaborative research projects, a member of the Brazilian, French and Third World Academies of Sciences, and a Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union, while publishing more than 250 peer-reviewed articles over her scholarly career.

Given that in 2009 she was described by Época magazine as one of the 100 most influential Brazilians, it appears that female scholars from emerging economies are indeed likely to have higher chances to take advantage of gender equality in science in terms of accomplishment and promotion, than their counterparts in developed countries.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Palácio da Alvorada, Homologação do tombamento de obras do Niemeyer, Brasília, DF, Brazil, June 21, 2011 | © Courtesy of Ichiro Guerra/Ministério da Cultura/Flickr.

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