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Research reveals low exposure of work by female scientists

Scientists of the University of Sheffield and the University of Groningen have found that high-quality science by female academics is under-represented in comparison to that of their male counterparts.

The researchers analysed the genders of invited presenters at the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) Congress 2011, where all abstract submissions were accepted for presentation. Women were under-represented among invited speakers at symposia (15 per cent women) compared to all presenters (46 per cent), regular oral presenters (41 per cent) and plenary speakers (25 per cent). This is a continuation of a trend: at the ESEB congresses in 2001-2011, only 9-23 per cent of invited speakers were women.

The study found that even in comparison to the numbers of women and men among world class scientists (from the world top-ranked institutions for life sciences and authors in the top-tier journals Nature and Science), women were still under-represented among invited speakers.

This under-representation of women is partly attributable to a larger proportion of women than men declining invitations: in 2011, 50 per cent of women declined an invitation to speak compared to 26 per cent of men. Yet, of all invited speakers (including declined invitations), only 23 per cent were women.

Dr Hannah Dugdale, visiting researcher at the University of Groningen, said, "It’s important that we understand why this is happening and what we can do to address it. We’re currently investigating the reasons behind this lower acceptance rate; it could relate to childcare requirements, lower perception of scientific ability, being uncomfortable with self-promotion... there are many potential contributing factors."

The research has been published by the Journal of Evolutionary Biology and the full paper can be downloaded.

Source: University of Groningen

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Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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