We have analysed the gender distribution of authors of News & Views articles in Nature and of Perspectives in Science for 2010 and 2011. Our numbers indicate that both journal sections under-represent women scientists.
We divided the articles into three broad subject categories: biological and chemical sciences (which includes medical sciences); physical sciences; and Earth and environmental sciences. We compared the proportion of women authors with the proportion of women scientists employed in 2006 in the United States in science and engineering in each of the three categories (see go.nature.com/bkechu).
We found that the proportion of women commissioned to write Nature News & Views articles was much lower than the proportion of women scientists overall: female authorship was 17.3% for the biological and chemical sciences, 8.1% for physical sciences and 3.8% for Earth and environmental sciences, with the proportion of women authors of Perspectives in Science being slightly larger. However, the pool of women scientists in these disciplines was significantly higher than the proportion of female authorship at 32%, 16% and 20%, respectively.
It should be pointed out that a large proportion of invited News & Views authors are full professors, and the percentage of full professors who are women is lower than that for all scientists. Also, the proportion of women full professors is smaller in the European Union than in the United States. However, the present proportion of women authors of News & Views and of Perspectives is very low, and we believe that it is still fair to conclude that fewer women than men are offered the career boost of invitation-only authorship in each of the two leading science journals.
In response to earlier criticism, Nature increased the proportion of women authors in its Insight section (D. Conley Nature 438, 1078; 2005). It is time to extend gender parity for commissioned writers across Nature and Science.