Share of Women Researchers Grows with Their Research as Impactful as Men’s

A new study published by Elsevier provides baseline examination of gender in the global research landscape

Amsterdam, March 8, 2017

The share of women among researchers has increased between four and 11 percentage points between the periods 1996-2000 and 2011-2015 among 12 geographies. Across these geographies, women’s scholarly articles are cited or downloaded at similar rates to men’s while women tend to publish fewer articles than men on average, demonstrating a gender balance in terms of research impact. These are among two of the key findings presented in a new global study, released today by Elsevier, the information analytics company specializing in science and health.

Drawing upon high-quality data sources, analytical expertise and a unique gender disambiguation methodology, the comprehensive report, “Gender in the Global Research Landscape”, measures research performance and gender representation over 20 years, across 12 geographies and 27 disciplines.

“Progress is occurring in terms of increased participation of women in research, albeit incrementally and unevenly, which is a sign that efforts to encourage women to engage in research, including in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, are gaining traction,” said Dr. Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Elsevier’s Vice President of Strategic Alliances-Global Academic Relations.

Between 1996 and 2000, among the 12 countries/regions that were studied, only Portugal had a women researcher population greater than 40%; by the period 2011-2015, nine countries/regions had a women researcher population of 40% or more. These countries/regions are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The remaining countries with still fewer than 40% women researchers are: Chile, Mexico and Japan.

General trends found across all countries/regions that were studied are:

  • Women are generally less internationally mobile than men; women are less likely to collaborate internationally on research papers;
  • Health and Life Sciences fields of research are found to have the highest representation of women while Physical Sciences are dominated by men;
  • Women are slightly less likely than men to collaborate across academic and corporate sectors on research articles.

Findings for specific countries/regions include:

  • Australia: in 2011-2015, the proportion of women among researchers was 44%; an increase from 33% in 1996-2000;
  • Brazil: in 2011-2015, the proportion of women among researchers was 49%; an increase from 38% in 1996-2000;
  • Canada: in 2011-2015, 37% of women’s scholarly output resulted from international collaboration compared to 45% for men;
  • EU: in 2011-2015, women collaborated across academic and corporate sectors on papers at a slightly lower rate than men (3% vs 4% of their scholarly output);
  • Japan: in 2011-2015, one fifth of researchers were women; on average, they published more scholarly papers per researcher over this time period than men;
  • UK: in 2011-2015, 43% of the women’s scholarly output resulted from international collaboration compared to 49% for men;
  • US: in 2011-2015, women’s research tended to be downloaded and cited at slightly higher rates than men.

“A lot of discussions around gender disparity are driven by experience and speculation. While that’s a good place to start, there is a knowledge gap that makes it difficult to move to effective interventions and policy. With this report we bring empirical insight to those discussions. This data can be used — and built upon — by research leaders, research funding organizations, government and policy makers working on themes critical to the STEM industry,” Falk-Krzesinski said.

The report is based on Elsevier’s SciVal and Scopus data combined with name data from social media, applied onomastics and Wikipedia. The analyses were further informed by input from stakeholder organizations and individuals around the world including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

This report is a follow-up to Elsevier’s ground-breaking 2015 report, Mapping Gender in the German Research Arena, and reflects one of several gender initiatives by which Elsevier supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5 (“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.

To promote broad sharing of the report findings and promote discussion on issues of gender in research, Elsevier will host a series of events across the globe. The first event will be held on Friday 31 March in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club. Speakers include: Dr. Rita Colwell, chair of National Academies Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and former director, National Science Foundation and Dr. Londa Schiebinger, director, EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment Project at Stanford University.

Read more on Elsevier Connect.

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Note for editors
Journalists who would like to schedule an interview to discuss the report and its findings can contact Sacha Boucherie at s.boucherie@elsevier.com +31 204853564. For a copy of the report, more information incl. an overview of the events, go to Elsevier’s Gender & Science Resource Center.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. 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, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 35,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Sacha Boucherie
Senior Press Officer, Elsevier
+31 20 485 3564
s.boucherie@elsevier.com