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The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens

Elsevier’s global analysis reveals persistent gender inequality in research across geographic regions and subject areas, despite an overall increase in women's participation.

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While the participation of women in research is increasing overall, inequality remains across geographies and subject areas in terms of publication outputs, citations, awarded grants and collaborations. That is among the findings of Elsevier's latest gender report.

The report, titled The researcher journey through a gender lensopens in new tab/window, examines research participation, career progression and perceptions across the European Union and 15 countries globally in 26 subject areas.

Cover of the report "The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens"

The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens

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Based on 20 years of data from Scopus across 12 geographies and all 27 Scopus subject areas, this is the third report Elsevier has produced on gender in the research landscape. It follows a global report released in 2017 and a report on Germany in 2015.

As with these previous studies, the 2020 report serves as a vehicle for understanding the role gender plays in the global research enterprise. Among the changes it brings are improvements in the methodology of inferred gender disambiguation of authors in Scopus and expanded analyses to cover a total of 16 countries/regions. It also includes new elements, such as career progression and collaboration network analyses and perspectives from researchers.

Key findings

While overall the representation of women in research is increasing, inequality remains. Data show where effort is still needed to ensure equality for women in terms of publication outputs, citations, awarded grants, and collaborations.

Research participation

  • In all countries studied and the EU28, the ratio of women to men among all authors was closer to parity during a recent 5-year period compared with a decade ago

  • Men are more highly represented among authors with a long publication history while women are highly represented among authors with a short publication history

Research footprint

  • On average, women researchers author fewer publications than men in every country, regardless of authorship position

    • The least difference in the number of publications by women compared to men is observed among first authors, and the biggest difference is observed among all authors

  • Among first authors, the average citation impact of men is higher than that of women, suggesting gender bias in citation practice

Pie charts showing the change in gender distribution among authors

The number of women to men among all authors is moving closer to being equal.

Image of statistics increase in women per field in research

Publishing careers and mobility

  • The percentage of women among all authors in the cohort declines over time (between the year of authors’ first publication in 2009 up to 2018) in all countries and regions except Portugal

  • In every country, the percentage of women who continue to publish is lower than men who continue to publish

Collaboration networks

  • Across many subject areas and countries, men tend to have more co-authors than women and this difference is wider for authors with a longer publication history

  • Women and men are more similar in the way they are connected to their potential collaborative space (second-order collaborators) through their direct collaborators

Researcher perspectives

Researcher attitudes towards gender diversity and equity vary widely among men and women. Most of the differences in viewpoints are related to the importance in individual places on gender balance and to the perception of fairness in the academic system.

Survey question

 Image of qualitative chart gender report

Survey response to the statement: "In my organization, women have to perform better than men to be considered good at their job," by gender and subject area.

  • There are two opposing opinions on the causes of gender imbalance and inequality in academia

  • Some groups (men and women) attribute gender inequality to the attitudes and ambition levels of women

  • Other groups attribute gender inequality to a systemic and cultural (unconscious) bias against women


While the report itself is rich in terms of the data presented, we are pleased to make the underlying data available for non-commercial research purposes. This report incorporates methodology of inferred gender disambiguation of authors in Scopus. It has expanded analyses to cover 16 countries and regions. In addition, it includes career progression and collaboration network analyses as well as perspectives from researchers. Use the Tableau dashboards to look at all the countries and subject-specific author gender statistics:

This report also draws on qualitative data to illustrate the diverse viewpoints of researchers related to gender diversity and equity. This qualitative data was derived from surveying researchers as illustrated below.

image of method report

To cite this report

De Kleijn, M, Jayabalasingham, B, Falk-Krzesinski, HJ, Collins, T, Kuiper-Hoyng, L, Cingolani, I, Zhang, J, Roberge, G, et al: The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens: An Examination of Research Participation, Career Progression and Perceptions Across the Globe (Elsevier, March 2020) Retrieved from opens in new tab/window