International Women’s Day 2022: Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

Laura Day and Hélène Draux
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The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.’

To mark the occasion and to contribute to the discussion we had a look into the publication age of researchers that are publishing in the ‘Climate Action’ space with papers relating to SDG 13

Publication age refers to the years between an author’s first publication and their most recent publication. For example, if someone published their first paper in 2002, and their most recent one in 2018, their publication age would be 17 years (=2018-2002+1).

Once we had a breakdown of publication age, we split this by gender (based on the author’s first name only), so you can see from the graph below that researchers with a higher publication age are predominantly male, but the data towards the bottom of the graph could show an encouraging trend.

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For those researchers with a higher publication age, the trend points in the direction of the demographic being predominantly male, however when we look at researchers with ‘younger’ publication ages, we see the breakdown beginning to balance somewhat – suggesting that female researchers are becoming more prominent in this field and the demographic is starting to become more equal.

Video by UN Women: It’s not too late: Climate action for women, by women

We also looked at papers associated with a few more SDGs, to see if there was an overarching trend when looking at publication ages and gender. 

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

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We were pleased to see that the trend for researchers and their publication ages for SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth was also encouraging, showing similarities to the demographic shown for climate action papers. 

As the publication ages become ‘younger’, the breakdown between male and female researchers becomes more balanced. Suggesting that as Agenda 2030 becomes the focus for many researchers all over the world, male and female – we could expect to see a more balanced demographic of paper authors in terms of gender.

SDG 5: Gender Equality 

As this investigation was primarily to mark International Women’s Day, we also had a look at the papers and authors associated with SDG 5: Gender Equality

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In this field, closely related to Gender Studies, we expect to find more women than men researchers, which is true in most publication ages; the trend is reversed for researchers with 30 years or more of publication history. 

This could reflect the fact that 30 years ago, the position of researchers was still predominantly a man’s position. Now that academic research is perhaps more accessible to women, the balance has reversed and more women are doing research on gender equality. 

Overall, our small investigation into some of the data associated with SDG related papers highlighted some promising trends. 

Across the analysis we did, the demographics were becoming more equal between male and female authorship as we moved to the ‘younger’ publication ages. Interestingly though, the field in which we saw a continued unbalanced demographic was Gender Equality….

As with all data investigation, some nuance is required. It’s important to mention that although when we look at the data above we see the proportion of female researchers growing in the younger publication age fields and this could indicate a positive trend, it could also confirm a well known fact. Statistically speaking, many women leave academia and their research careers earlier due to having children and therefore their publication ages are often significantly ‘younger’, as they don’t publish in their respective fields for the time spans that we regularly see from their male counterparts.

We hope that everyone had a wonderful International Women’s Day and enjoyed participating in all the wonderful discussions that happened across the globe! 

This thoughtful analysis was undertaken by Hélène Draux, Data Scientist in the Digital Science Consultancy Team