Gender parity closer among astronomers in low-income countries

University of Oslo, Norway.

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Many high-income nations are lagging behind some less-prosperous ones with regard to gender parity in astronomy, according to the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU’s) latest statistics (see

In most wealthy countries, women account for less than 18% of astronomers — including in Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and the Nordic nations. Italy (26%), France (25%), Ireland (22%) and Spain (20%) are exceptions. To my knowledge, hardly any women head space agencies such as NASA or the European Space Agency, or lead the editorial boards of astronomy’s top journals (see Nature 528, 471–473; 2015).

The proportion of female astronomers is higher in some Latin American and Eastern European countries. Women comprise more than 30% of astronomers in Serbia, Venezuela, Peru, Romania, Bulgaria and Argentina, for example.

Given wealthy countries’ reputation for education and outreach, this difference is disappointing. It recalls an age when astronomers were hand-picked royal courtiers and women were excluded. The IAU is taking steps to include more women in its leadership positions (see, for instance,

Nature 555, 165 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-02835-z

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