There are many barriers to the diversity of science. In any given nation, there will be cultural and social factors – often at the intersection – that prevent the full research potential of one population group or another from being met. One expression is discussed on page 211.
At Nature we have attempted to organize our home, and have created just one scratch on the surface of one particular challenge – the low proportion of women contributing our own stuff. This scratch is thanks to the actions taken there as we focused on this issue in an editorial a year ago (see Nature 491, 495; 2012).
So what have we achieved? In the presence of women on our pages, progress has indeed been made.
In the News and Views section, the proportion of female writers has increased from 12% in 2011 to 19% in 2013.
The proportion of women our journalists appear in profiles has increased from 18% in 2011 to 40% in 2013. This does not include the four profiles featured in our ‘Women in Science’ special issue earlier this year (see nature.com/women).
The number of articles by women in our World View section, inspired by current topics, remains low, now clocking in at 12%. In contrast in 2013, 33% of comment articles had at least one female author (27% of them had a woman as the first author). Worldview and commentary articles with at least one female author accounted for a combined total of 26% in 2013 – an improvement of 19% over 2011-12.
In our editorial a year ago, we highlighted the need for a ‘gender loop’ – a conscious move in which an editor deliberately identifies multiple female candidates, before selecting authors and profile subjects in our magazine sections, and in our Ref for research papers.
In this last category, the result has been disappointing – the number of female referees has been very small. From 14% in 2011, the proportion of women fell to 12% in 2012 and then increased to 13% in 2013. Considering the uncertainties arising from the ambiguity in some names, these numbers are essentially on a plateau.
Attempts have been made by research editors to increase the number of women invited to act as reviewers, when visiting laboratories and meetings, and surveying the literature. Women already make up only a small fraction of potential referees due to the demographics of the research community.
And our efforts have made us all more aware that a higher proportion of women than men decline our invitation to referee. We haven’t checked this with a single survey, but informal observations indicate that women tend to be more engaged.