CAREER BRIEF

Gender inequality in authorship set to persist for decades

Some disciplines need to implement reforms if parity is to be achieved.

An analysis of more than 10 million scientific and medical studies published between 2002 and 2018 suggests that male authors will continue to outnumber female authors for at least the rest of this century. The findings, published in PLoS Biology, examined articles in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (L. Holman et al. PLoS Biol. 16, e2004956; 2018). Female authors were particularly scarce in the fields of physics, computer science, maths and surgery. For example, women accounted for just 13% of prestigious last-author spots in physics studies. That percentage has crept upwards by about 0.1% a year since 2002, suggesting that if current trends hold, authorship in physics studies could reach equality in roughly 260 years. The gender disparity in authorship was especially pronounced in papers from Japan, Germany and Switzerland, whereas the most gender-equitable countries were in South America, Africa and elsewhere in Europe. “Without novel interventions, these fields are likely to remain gender-biased for many decades,” says lead author Luke Holman, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “Despite recent gains, we still have far to go.”

Nature 557, 747 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05269-9
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