New Delhi: Elsevier has released its latest report analysing gender equality in research. Progress Towards Gender Equality in Research & Innovation – 2024 Review examines inclusion and diversity in career cohorts across intersecting disciplines and geographies, tracking multiple indicators over 20 years. It reveals progress, with women now representing 41 per cent of researchers globally, but also that serious challenges persist in gender equity in research and innovation.

Notably, at the current pace of change, equality remains unacceptably far away; for example, although women’s representation in mathematics, engineering and computer science is increasing, it is not projected to reach parity with men’s until 2052. And, while grant funding for women is rising (from 29 per cent in 2009 to 37 per cent in 2022), translation of research into innovation through patent applications – which serve as a proxy for understanding involvement in the full value chain of research – is much lower for women researchers. This is despite women’s strong performance in disciplines that relate to solving some of the biggest challenges the world faces, as expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The report provides a substantial evidence base for academic leaders, funders, and policymakers to take data-led action on gender equality in research and innovation. Women have made gains in the last two decades – as of 2022, they represent 41 per cent (compared to 28 per cent in 2001) of all active researchers globally, with strong representation in health sciences. However, gender diversity hasn’t progressed equally in all fields, for example, in the physical sciences women represent just 33 per cent of researchers. Women’s participation in the research workforce differs substantially by country/region. In Portugal and Argentina, just over half (52 per cent) of active researchers are women. Women make up nearly half of active researchers in Brazil, Spain, and Italy, and around 40 per cent in the US and the UK. 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 (22 per cent) of active researchers in Japan. The average share of women among grant awardees increased globally from 29 per cent in 2009 to 37 per cent in 2022. The largest increases were for the Netherlands (+19 percentage points), Denmark (+13), the United Kingdom (+12), France (+10), Canada (+10), and Portugal (+8).Women comprise the majority of active researchers working on some UN SDG research areas, including education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), reduce inequalities (SDG 10) and peace and justice (SDG 16). For 10 of the 17 SDGs, proportionally slightly more women engage in more multidisciplinary research than men. Multidisciplinary research, in which researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds collaborate, is considered important to solving complex global challenges. Women’s progress is especially marked when assessed using indicators around societal impact, with their research more likely than men’s to be cited in policy documents and media.India leads in the growth of women researchers, yet global challenges persist, over the last decade, India presented the third highest compound annual growth rate for women’s share of active researchers, at 2 per cent, behind only Egypt and the Netherlands. Women researchers in India are more often cited by policy documents than men on average, with respective normalised scores of 0.41 and 0.37 across all subject areas. Within broad scientific areas, women outperform men in physical sciences (0.37 versus 0.35), social sciences (0.36 versus 0.33), STEM (0.40 versus 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 as often as men when focusing on patents citing scientific literature (0.40 for both). Women score higher in lifesciences (0.36 versus 0.34) and STEM (0.38 versus 0.37). Early-career Indian women in health sciences reached parity in 2022, representing 41 per cent of all Indian active researchers in this area. In lifesciences, early career women reached the parity zone in 2021, and as of 2022, they represent 43 per cent of active researchers. The share of women among grant awardees in India has shown improvement but lags behind global leaders. In India, the share of women among grant awardees is currently 33 per cent compared to 37 per cent globally.

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

⦁ Accelerate commitments and actions towards greater gender equity in research.
⦁ Stop the decline in participation with rising seniority by prioritising the retention of early-career women researchers into mid and advanced career stages.
⦁ Develop incentive structures to help women play an equal part in the full research and innovation value chain, including patents.
⦁ Apply a broad 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 drive accountability.

Commenting on the report, Mirit Eldor, Managing Director, Lifesciences Solutions, Elsevier and Secretary, Inclusion and Diversity Independent Advisory Board, said, “With guidance from our Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board, we have shaped this latest gender report to illuminate progress, ongoing disparities and pathways towards a more equitable research ecosystem. The report also offers the research community insights that can help evolve how research excellence is evaluated. We can now better understand the impact of women’s research in addressing the most serious challenges our world faces today.”

Dr Hannah Valantine, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University and Member, Elsevier’s Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board, said, “I was just so taken aback by the gender report’s scope, depth, breadth, thoughtfulness, and potential for real impact. It can lead to genuine culture change within institutions and funding agencies to in turn 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 important problems, especially as the 2030 deadline for the UN SDGs gets closer, the report provides valuable intersectional insight into women’s contribution to the global research and innovation ecosystem, the need for traditional academic evaluation metrics to evolve, and the continuing imperative for greater inclusiveness in the research and innovation workforce.

  • Published On Jun 20, 2024 at 01:37 PM IST

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