New report reveals women in research are closing gender gap globally, but inequality persists

Elsevier CEO Kumsal Bayazit launches independent Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board to support lasting solutions to unlock the full potential of research through greater diversity

London, March 5, 2020

A new Elsevier report, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, shows participation of women in research is increasing, but inequality remains for publication outputs, citations, awarded grants, collaboration and perceptions.

The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens examines research participation, career progression, and perceptions across the European Union and 15 countries1 globally in 26 subject areas. The analysis is based on Elsevier Scopus data and was further informed by experts from around the world who advised on the report’s development, including the research questions, methodologies and analytics.

The report shows that the overall gap between men’s and women’s participation in research is shrinking: the ratio of women-to-men researchers in nearly all regions studied increased by approximately 20 women for every 100 men in 2014–2018; compared with values observed in 1999-2003. However, the report also finds that geographic and subject area inequality still exists.

Highlights from the report

  • Women represent an increasing share of all authors, but men still outnumber women in all countries/regions studied, except in Argentina, where 51 percent of publishing researchers are women (between 2014-2018). Japan shows the lowest share of women among authors (15 percent between 2014-2018).
  • Women are most highly represented among earlier career authors and in the life and health sciences; notably in nursing and psychology women represent the majority of authors.
  • Men are better represented among authors with a long publication history, across all subject areas within the physical sciences and as last and corresponding authors.
  • Generally, men publish more, and publish more internationally than women, are awarded more grants than women, and apply for more patents than women.
  • On average, men have a higher citation impact for their first author publications than women.
  • Both men and women tend to collaborate preferentially with authors of the same gender
  • Across all subject areas and geographies, men tend to have more co-authors than women, with the gap widening as publication history increases.
  • Researchers’ perspectives about the role of gender in academia are largely guided by their perception of how fair the academic system is and the level of importance they place on gender diversity.

The report is Elsevier’s third Gender Report and reaffirms the company’s broader commitment to gender inclusion and diversity as a member of the global research community and in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Other actions that Elsevier has taken in recent years include refinement of key processes, principles and systems to support robust research in the most equitable and inclusive way. For example, the company targets greater gender diversity for its journal editorial boards, reviewers and invited conference speakers. Elsevier has also enhanced editorial policies and guidance to authors on reporting about sex and gender in research studies and the use of inclusive language across its portfolio of journals.

Today, Elsevier also announced the launch of its Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board,with the participation of pre-eminent research leaders and co-chaired by Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier, and Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet.

The independent, multidisciplinary Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board will work towards lasting solutions that promote inclusion and diversity across disciplines, collaborating with the research community to drive long-term, measurable change. Initial areas of focus include participation, gender in science and career progression. The Board aims to address these areas with standards, best practices and evidence-based initiatives that drive unbiased, robust decisions on how research is conducted through to improvement of gender equity in research funding, peer review, publication and career opportunities.

Founding members

  • Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier; co-chair Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board
  • Dr. Gary Darmstadt, Associate Dean for Maternal and Child Health and Professor of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine in Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Prof. Sarah Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health, Professor of Global Public Health at University College London
  • Prof. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, and the University of Oslo; co-chair Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board
  • Prof. Helena Legido-Quigley, Associate Professor, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore and Lecturer Global Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
  • Dr. Elizabeth Pollitzer, Founder and Director Portia Ltd.
  • Prof. Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University, and Director of the EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment
  • Prof. Martina Schraudner, Head of Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation and Professor for Gender & Diversity in Organisations at TU Berlin
  • Dr. Miyoko Watanabe, Executive Director at Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and Vice President of the Science Council of Japan.
  • Prof. Tom Welton, Professor of Sustainable Chemistry at Imperial College London and President-elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Dr. Nieng Yan, Professor of Molecular Biology, Princeton University

Commenting on the Gender Report and the launch of the Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier, said: “There has been important progress in gender balance in research over the recent decades and it is encouraging to see from our report that women are closing the gender gap globally. However, our latest findings also indicate persistent areas of gender inequality, so we have more work to do to address issues that span diversity and inclusion in research. There is no single solution here, it will take all parts of the research ecosystem to come together and focus on making progress to drive lasting change.

“I am excited about the launch of our Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, bringing together distinguished leaders from across the international research and health community to examine how we can unleash the full power of academic and applied research by consciously eliminating barriers around gender, age, and nationality, among others.

“The Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board will use data-driven insights to identify areas of need and opportunity to drive targeted action and to inform policy. We hope to work with all stakeholders, including funding bodies, governments, and institutions worldwide that share our goal of advancing science and improving health outcomes through greater diversity in research.”


Notes for editors
1 Countries/region covered in report: USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, EU28, Portugal, Spain, UK, France, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Japan.

For all information related to the Gender Report, including infographics and an interactive world map for data per country/region studied, please visit the Report Hub.

More information about Elsevier’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board can be found here.

Elsevier has an ongoing commitment to promoting gender diversity and advancing gender equity in global research. The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens, is its third report on gender and research and is a follow up to Elsevier’s Gender in the Global Research Landscape report, published in 2017, and it reflects Elsevier’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 5, to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and the Global Research Council’s Statement of Principles and Actions Promoting the Equality and Status of Women in Research.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Media contacts
Sacha Boucherie
Elsevier Communications, Europe
+31 6 3066 7129

Christopher Capot
Elsevier Communications, US
+1 917 704 5174

Jason Chan
Elsevier Communications, APAC
+65 9177 8358

Esra Erkal
Elsevier Global Communications
+44 7500 992819