Gender Gap in Science
Last year Maryam Mirzakhani, a Professor at Stanford University who was born and raised in Iran, was the first woman mathematician to be awarded with a Fields Medal (a mathematician’s “Nobel Prize”), along with three other laureates: Martin Hairer (Austrian, based in the UK), Manjul Bhargava (Canadian-American, Princeton University), Artur Avila (Brazilian-French, Paris). Their names alone show how incredibly diverse and international science is today.
And yet, in every country of the world, considerable gender gaps remain in practically every scientific field.
Our Analysis and Sources
Scientific journals and databases constitute a framework for scientists to publish their work, share knowledge and establish precedence for their discoveries. However complex the discovery, a scientific publication is a simple text document with: the name(s) of the author(s), an abstract, a body and a list of citations (references to other scientific papers).With the explosion of volume of publications in recent years and the development of large electronic collections of scientific publications, it has become possible to analyze the data statistically (how many times a scientific journal or a particular article is cited…). Bibliometrics is now considered as a tool for science policy providing indicators to measure productivity and scientific quality, thereby supplying a basis for evaluating and orienting R&D. It is also a potential tool for evaluation. There is no gender information about the author of the article or the authors cited, but it is possible to infer the likely gender from scientist names. This is the approach that was taken to produce this prior research, published in journal Nature.
To estimate the overall gender gap in science, we inferred the likely gender of about 1,000,000 scientists referenced in ORCID.org and thousands of the world’s most renowned researchers mentioned in HighlyCited.com.
ORCID is a community-driven registry of researchers, with a Board of Directors including members from MIT, Thomson Reuters, Elsevier, CERN and other important organizations. Its aim is to solve the author and contributor name ambiguity problem in scholarly publications: homonyms, name variants, typos, transliterations, use of initials vs. full scientist name… ORCID provides an API and releases a data dump every year for data mining purposes.
HighlyCited is a web site listing researchers who earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Thomson Reuters’ Essential Science Indicators as Highly Cited Papers — ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication. The ratio of women in HighlyCited is a matter of initial demographics (ratio of women studying in a given discipline, evolution over time) and recognition of talent by the scientific community. But as in many professions, other social factors may play a part: attrition rate among women pursuing a scientific career, unconscious gender biases in the way scientists themselves accept a paper for publication or make citations, differences in career paths or grants allocations…
Our Findings – Highlights
Those are some of our main findings. Starting from a theoretical ratio of 50% female and 50% male world inhabitants, we estimate that:
- Among one million scientists in ORCID.org, 33% are women.
- In 2001 women scientists were 7% of all researchers mentioned in HighlyCited; the number grew to 13% in 2014.
- The gender gap in HighlyCited researchers is narrower for social sciences (31% women in 2014) compared to computer science (9% women in 2014).
- In some fields the gender gap is closing fast: HighlyCited women engineers were 11% in 2014, up from 1% in 2001; same for mathematics 11% in 2014, up from 4% in 2001.
- In other fields the gender gap is not closing (example: HighlyCited female researchers in Physics were 4% in 2014, compared to 5% in 2001).