Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Promoting gender equality in the European astronomical community


Striving for equality means striving for an equal, inclusive and diverse world. Gender is just one facet of the broader theme of diversity. Years of dedicated efforts to tackle gender equality in the workforce and throughout society in Europe show positive trends, but the timescales involved in implementing changes and making them effective means equality between women and men remains an important goal yet to be achieved by the majority of players (be these institutes, universities, research organizations or companies). This Perspective reports on the most recent initiatives in science and technology, with a special focus on the field of astronomy.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Fraction of IAU women astronomers in IAU adhering (plain) and observer (striped) countries (as of October 2019).

adapted from ref. 15, IAU

Fig. 2: Percentage of respondents in the field of astronomy per geographical area.

adapted from ref. 16, IAU

Data Availability

The data shown in Fig. 1 are taken from the IAU and are publically available at The data shown in Fig. 2 are taken from the Joint Global Survey of scientists, initiated by the project A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It, a cross-disciplinary initiative sponsored by the International Science Council. So far, the data have been made available only among the project partners, and they will be published in the final report of the project (due January 2020).


  1. Etzkowitz, H. & Ranga, M. Gender dynamics in science and technology: from the “leaky pipeline” to the “vanish box”. Brussels Econ. Rev. 54, 131–147 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Guarino, C. M. & Borden, V. M. H. Faculty service loads and gender: are women taking care of the academic family? Res. High. Educ. 58, 672–694 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Primas, F. Gender initiatives in astronomy. Nat. Astron. 2, 771–772 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Ivie, R. & Langer Tesfaye, C. Women in physics: a tale of limits. Phys. Today 65, 47–50 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Mihaljević-Brandt, H., Santamaría, L. & Tullney, M. The effect of gender in the publication patterns in mathematics. PLoS ONE 11, e0165367 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Primas, F. Status of women at ESO: a pilot study on ESO staff gender distribution. The Messenger 128, 67–71 (2007).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Gvozdanović, J. & Maes, K. Implicit Bias in Academia: A Challenge to the Meritocratic Principle and to Women’s Careers — And What to Do About It (LERU, 2018);

  8. Buitendijk, S. & Maes, K. Gendered Research and Innovation: Integrating Sex and Gender Analysis into the Research Process (LERU, 2015);

  9. Maes, K., Gvozdanović, J., Buitendijk, S., Ingalill Rahm, H. & Mantilleri, B. Women, Research and Universities: Excellence Without Gender Bias (LERU, 2012);

  10. Patat, F. Gender Systematics in Telescope Time Allocation at ESO. The Messenger 165, 2–9 (2016).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Reid, I. N. Gender-correlated systematics in HST proposal selection. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac. 126, 923–934 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Reid, I. N. Hubble Cycle 26 TAC and anonymous peer review. Space Telescope Science Institute Newsletter (2018);

  13. Patat, F., Kerzendorf, W., Bordelon, D., Van de Ven, G. & Pritchard, T. The distributed peer review experiment. The Messenger 177, 3–13 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Martell, R. F., Lane, D. M. & Emrich, C. Male-female differences: a computer simulation. Am. Psychol. 51, 157–158 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030 (IAU, 2018);

  16. IAU Catalyst (IAU, June 2019);

Download references


The author thanks all of the colleagues with whom, over the past ten years, the author has exchanged views, engaged in stimulating discussions and attended or organized gender-related meetings and events.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Primas.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Primas, F. Promoting gender equality in the European astronomical community. Nat Astron 3, 1075–1079 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing