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How Long Until Women are Equally Represented in STEMM?

It’s a widely acknowledged problem that there are fewer women than men in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine). And while many studies show that the number of women in STEMM subjects are increasing, this study by Holman, Stuart-Fox, and Hauser shows that in many subjects it’s not increasing fast enough. The authors use a computational approach to analyse data about authorship of academic publications, with a sample size of around 36 million authors and almost 10 million articles published from 1991 to today. What they find is that in the most male-dominated disciplines like physics, mathematics, computer science, and surgery, it will take centuries to reach gender parity if change continues at its current rate.

In general, 87 of the 115 disciplines they looked at had fewer than 45% female authors, 5 had more than 55% female authors, and 23 were within 5% of gender parity. Regardless of discipline, women were significantly underrepresented as the last author listed (i.e. the most senior author) and as sole authors. The gender ratio among authors of invited papers was even more disadvantageous to women. Additionally, the prestige and impact of journals negatively correlated with the proportion of women authors they published.

These results highlight the urgent need for continued and in some cases increased gender equality measures.

However, the study wasn’t without good news. Many disciplines are already close to gender parity and no disciplines have shown a decline in the number of women authors. And the relatively high number of women in first-author positions suggests that increasing amounts of women are starting careers in STEMM fields.

Holman, Stuart-Fox, and Hauser’s full study can be accessed here.

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