There is an article I found interesting in Nature this week about gender inequity in News and View articles in Nature and Perspectives articles in Science. The article is written by Daniel Conley and Johanna Stadmark of Lunds University in Sweden. They do a statistical analysis in 3 subject areas: biology and chemistry, physical sciences and Earth and environmental sciences. Their conclusion is that the proportion of women commissioned to write these pieces is quite low.
Here are some of the numbers for Nature. Female authorship was 17% for biology/chemisty, 8% for physical sciences and 4% for Earth/environmental sciences. The Science numbers are slightly larger, but still small. These are to be compared to the fraction of women in these field in the US, with is 32%, 16% and 20%, respectively. They point out that scientists commissioned to write these pieces are typically full professors, and the fraction of women full professors is lower in all three areas.
The authors were interviewed about the article and had the following to say:
"We believe that fewer women than men are offered the career boost of invitation-only authorship in each of the two leading science journals" (Daniel Conley)
""Gender parity can be achieved if Nature and Science are willing to make the effort to include more women in their invitation-only sections" (Johanna Stadmark)
One thing that I found particularly interesting is that the authors refer to a similar kind of piece that Conley wrote in Nature in 2005 about the small fraction of women authors in the Insight section of Nature. Nature actually made an effort to increase the fraction after 2005 with good results. Being aware of these inequalities and discussing them can really make a difference!