Women are less likely to be authors

Women are less likely to be authors

news | by Janneke Adema

July 14, 2022 † Female scientists are systematically recognized as much less authoritative than men, according to research from the United States. The position on the organizational ladder does not matter. Situations in which a person is unfairly denied authorship have a significant professional impact.

Photo: Polina Tankelevich

Women are less well known in science than men. This appears to be partly because they produce less; Factors such as family obligations, lower jobs, and undesirable work environments contribute to this. However, the general under-representation of women also results from a lack of recognition for the work they do, an extensive analysis of the data shows. Nature has published an early version of Research at Northeastern University and Cambridge, among others

Women working on research groups are cited as significantly less authors than men. Although this is partly due to the lower proportion of women in senior positions, it appears that women are also underrepresented in recognition for each position. In addition, women provide more work for publications that are recognized as authors.

decisive role

The researchers wrote that Rosalind Franklin is a well-known example of a woman who has not been recognized for her work. In Crick and Watson’s famous paper, in which Francis Crick and James Watson declared DNA to be in the form of a double helix, Franklin was not given authorship. Franklin’s friends launched an investigation that revealed that her contribution played a vital role. According to researchers, Franklin’s case is far from unique.

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Various methods were used in the study. The first part consists of a quantitative analysis of data from nearly 10,000 research teams with approximately 130,000 researchers and staff. The second part included a survey of nearly 2,500 respondents who were all authors of at least one publication about web of science† In the third part of the study, researchers collected respondents’ open answers and conducted interviews.

double the height

The analysis shows that women are included as authors significantly less. Seventeen percent of all scientists and staff were authors of one or more scientific papers. Of all men, 21 percent were recognized as authors, while only 12 percent of women had the copyright. This is partly because women are less likely to hold senior positions than men, the researchers wrote. However, even when they looked at the data for each position on the organizational ladder, women appeared to be less likely to be authors.

The researchers not only looked at who had previously been an author, but also how high a person’s chance of being named as an author in a scientific publication was as a member of a research team. A person is considered a “probable author” if designated one year prior to publication; Thus the chance of its recognition is the ratio between “potential authorship” and actual authorship. Overall, the probability was three percent. However, when divided into ‘men’ and ‘women’, it was found that men’s chance is twice as high.

More work

Survey results are in line with quantitative analysis. Women (43 percent) were more likely than men (38 percent) to report not being recognized as authors despite their participation in the study. The most common reason was the underestimation of the researcher’s scientific contribution, which again affected women more than men. In general, participants were less likely to say that discrimination or bias was a reason for not obtaining authorship, although women were more likely to attribute lack of recognition to this than men.

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“The senior researchers underestimated me in the group because I asked for recognition.”


Respondents also answered questions about the amount of work they did in a recent publication. This showed that women do more than men in the publications for which they are authors. They do more in the concept stage, among other things, when processing data, writing draft copy, proofreading and editing. It was found that men contribute more to software.

Authorship rules are not clear

Interviews and open-ended responses provide insight into the findings. Several participants indicated that it is important to speak up and stand up for yourself; If you do not strive to be recognized, you may lose authorship; Especially women. However, being aggressive can also have negative consequences. One respondent wrote, “The senior researchers underestimated my ability in the group because I asked for confession (every time I tried to break away from the doormat stereotype it backfired…)”.

Moreover, the rules for becoming an author are often unclear. These rules are often set by senior researchers – usually men – and are strongly influenced by personal relationships and opinions. This often leads to disagreements. “The leaflets were used to reward and punish. It all depends on the decision of the head of the department. It was difficult to break free from this because they used their positions to narrow you down,” one participant wrote.


Participants were well aware of the impact of scientific recognition – or lack thereof – on their careers. “This has really damaged my career as a researcher and my chance of getting jobs, promotions and grants to not be in the research papers where I was one of the principal investigators. I am an academic, but I still only have an educational role,” said one participant. It happened, and they called it a low point in their career.

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Research shows that women are systematically disadvantaged when it comes to recognition. This contributes to the “leaky pipeline” in academia. According to the researchers, the effect is also improved; What happened and continues to happen to Rosalind Franklin and many other women discourage women from climbing the academic ladder.

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