Our analysis of primary research papers in 15 prestigious multidisciplinary and neuroscience journals in the MEDLINE database indicates that the proportion of female authors in these journals has been consistently low over the past 13 years. Publication in distinguished journals advances careers, so this under-representation negatively affects the careers of thousands of female scientists.
In Nature, for example, women accounted for fewer than 15% of last (senior) authors. By comparison, female scientists received about 27% of prominent research grants from the US National Institutes of Health and from the UK Medical Research Council over the same period.
In these leading journals, we find an impact-factor effect: a negative correlation between the 5-year journal impact factor and the percentage of female first (rs = –0.75, P <0.01) and last (rs = –0.56, P <0.05) authors (for details, see Y. A. Shen et al. Preprint at bioRxiv http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/275362; 2018).
The proportion of female authors in our set of high-profile journals rose by less than 1% annually in 2005–17. Increasing female representation needs to be a stronger priority (see, for example, Nature 541, 435–436; 2017). Like Microsoft, Google and Walmart, publishing houses have a legal responsibility to avoid discrimination and to implement practices that increase the representation of women and minorities.
Nature 555, 165 (2018)