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Women editors: we need more female scientists

Naturevolume 441page812 (2006) | Download Citation



Your News story “Societies spurn women editors” (Nature 440, 974–975; 200610.1038/440974a) suggests that there is ongoing and systematic bias against women for the position of editor of Evolution. As vice-president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and associate editor of Evolution, I strongly believe this is not the case. Several women were identified as potential editors-in-chief of Evolution: women with strong research records, broad visions for the field and wide support. But not one of those approached was interested in the position.

Why are women declining to be considered? In the face of the many obstacles to women in science, those of us who have established successful research careers have done so by learning to say “no”. The task of editor-in-chief is onerous, time-consuming and largely thankless. Potential candidates recognize that saying “yes” to this particular job comes at an enormous personal cost — to one's research career, students and family.

It is important to recognize that women in science do a disproportionate share of service because of the desire for gender equality on committees. Expecting us to do more is not necessarily in the best interests of women or science. The paucity of female editors points to the need to encourage the scientific careers of women: only when there are more senior women scientists are we likely to see this problem go away.

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  1. Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, British Columbia, Canada

    • Sarah P. Otto


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