Women make up 41 per cent of researchers globally, but serious gender equality challenges remain: Report, ET HealthWorld

Women make up 41 per cent of researchers globally, but serious gender equality challenges remain: Report, ET HealthWorld


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New Delhi: Elsevier has released its latest report analysing gender equality in research. The Progress towards Gender Equality in Research and Innovation – 2024 Review examines inclusion and diversity across career groups in different disciplines and geographies, tracking a number of indicators over 20 years. It shows progress, with women now representing 41 per cent of researchers globally, but also finds that serious challenges remain to gender equality in research and innovation.

Notably, at the current pace of change, parity remains unacceptably far from achieved; for example, although women’s representation in mathematics, engineering, and computer science is growing, it is not projected to equal that of men until 2052. And, while grant funding for women is on the rise (from 29 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2022), the conversion of research into innovation through patent applications – which serves as a proxy for understanding participation across the entire value chain of research – remains far lower for female researchers. This is despite women’s strong performance in disciplines that are concerned with solving some of the biggest challenges facing the world, as expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The report provides academic leaders, funders and policymakers with a substantial evidence base to take data-based action on gender equality in research and innovation. Women have made progress over the past two decades – by 2022, they represent 41 per cent of all active researchers globally (compared to 28 per cent in 2001), with strong representation in the health sciences. However, gender diversity has not progressed equally across all sectors; for example, in the physical sciences women represent only 33 per cent of researchers. Women’s participation in the research workforce varies considerably by country/region. In Portugal and Argentina, slightly more than half (52 per cent) of active researchers are women. In Brazil, Spain and Italy, almost half of active researchers are women, and in the US and the UK, almost 40 per cent are women. However, women make up 33 per cent in India, now the world’s third-largest research-producing country; 30 per cent in Egypt; and less than a quarter of active researchers in Japan (22 per cent). The average share of women among grant recipients increased globally from 29 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2022. The largest increases were in the Netherlands (+19 percentage points), Denmark (+13), the United Kingdom (+12), France (+10), Canada (+10) and Portugal (+8). Women make up the majority of active researchers working in some of the UN SDG research areas, including education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), reducing inequalities (SDG 10) and peace and justice (SDG 16). For 10 of the 17 SDGs, proportionately slightly more women engage in more multidisciplinary research than men. Multidisciplinary research, in which researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds collaborate Women's progress is particularly marked when assessed using indicators around societal impact, with their research more likely to be cited in policy documents and the media than men's. India leads in the growth of women researchers, yet global challenges remain Over the past decade, India presented the third-highest compound annual growth rate for the share of women in active researchers, at 2 percent, only behind Egypt and the Netherlands. Women researchers in India are cited more often than men on average by policy documents, with normalized scores of 0.41 and 0.37, respectively, across all subject areas. Across broad scientific fields, women outperform men in the physical sciences (0.37 vs 0.35), social sciences (0.36 vs 0.33), STEM (0.40 vs 0.37) and are on par in health sciences (0.52 for both). Although women are underrepresented as inventors on patent applications, they are cited equally as often as men when focusing on patents citing scientific literature (0.40 for both). Women score higher in life sciences (0.36 vs 0.34) and STEM (0.38 vs 0.37). Early-career Indian women in health sciences reach parity in 2022, representing 41 per cent of all Indian active researchers in the field. In life sciences, early-career women reached parity territory in 2021, and by 2022, they represent 43 per cent of active researchers. The share of women among grant recipients in India has improved, but lags behind global leaders. In India, the share of women among grant recipients is currently 33 per cent, while globally it is 37 per cent.

The report presents five recommended areas of action for the research and innovation communities:

⦁ Accelerate commitments and actions towards greater gender equality in research.
⦁ Prevent a decline in participation with increasing seniority by prioritising the retention of early-career women researchers into the mid- and advanced career stages.
⦁ Develop incentive structures to help women play an equal role across the entire research and innovation value chain, including patents.
⦁ Apply a wide range of indicators to measure research effectiveness, including societal and policy impact.
⦁ Continue to collect and report inclusion and diversity data to monitor progress, identify gaps, evaluate policies, and increase accountability.

Commenting on the report, Mirit Eldor, Managing Director, LifeSciences Solutions at Elsevier and Secretary of the Inclusion & Diversity Independent Advisory Board, said, “Under the guidance of our Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, we have shaped this latest gender report to highlight progress, ongoing inequities, and pathways toward a more equitable research ecosystem. The report also provides the research community with insights that can help evolve how we evaluate research excellence. We can now better understand the impact of women's research in addressing the most pressing challenges facing our world today.”

Dr. Hannah Valentine, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and a member of Elsevier's Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board, said, “I am so amazed at the gender report's scope, depth, detail, thoughtfulness, and potential for real impact. It could lead to real cultural change within institutions and funding agencies, which in turn could benefit individual researchers of all genders throughout their careers.”

In an era where researchers are increasingly expected to help tackle the world’s most complex and pressing problems, especially as the 2030 deadline for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) approaches, this report provides valuable interdisciplinary insights into women’s contributions to the global research and innovation ecosystem, the need for evolving traditional academic assessment criteria, and the continued imperative for greater inclusivity in the research and innovation workforce.

  • Published on June 20, 2024 at 01:37 PM IST

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