Academia’s gender bias problem

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Women is academics

Are academic journals immune to gender bias? Not according to a new collaborative study conducted by researchers at uOttawa and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (U.K.) published in The Lancet, which reveals that the authors, reviewers and editors of academic journal articles are mostly men.

Listing several reports on gender representation in prestigious academic journals Jamie Lundine and Ivy Bourgeault from the Institute for Feminist and Gender Studies and the Telfer School of Management, reveal a grim reality: As reported in Nature, out of the estimated 27 million researchers who authored over 5 million research papers between 2008 and 2012, over 70% were men.

The study authors state how gender as a social, cultural and economic system of practices result in men and women having different experiences and unequal opportunities. This inequality can be seen in academic publishing as it can in gender pay gaps, endemic sexual harassment, and the “glass ceiling” that limits female representation and advancement in social and economic life.

A successful academic career depends largely on academic publication, since the number of articles a researcher has published in academic journals is an important factor in determining whether the researcher will be offered tenure or a promotion. According to the authors, gender bias in academic publishing is both a reflection and a cause of the under-representation and inequality of women in academia. Women receive less research funding in science and medicine, which in turn leads to fewer research articles authored by women, thus reducing their funding success.

The authors urge the academic publishing community to recognize that it is not immune to sexism and gender bias. Even though some leading journals have begun addressing this issue, the authors encourage publishers to take concrete action to counter the sexism and gender bias in the realm of academic publishing. In addition to other initiatives, the authors recommend that editors and their staffs receive training on diversity and unconscious gender bias, and that academic publishers implement the Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) guidelines.


Media Inquiries:

Karyne Vienneau
Media Relations Officer
University of Ottawa

Back to top