Women underrepresented in world science report finds

Women representation and participation in national science academies globally are insignificant despite efforts to promote the role of women in science. The first comprehensive survey of member academies of IAP: The Global Network of Science Academies, found the average share of women members across 69 national science academies to be 12%. In just under one half, 30 academies from 69, the share of women members was either 10% or less.

The report Women for Science: Inclusion and Participation in Academies of Science was supported by the IAP and published by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). It documents the results of two surveys undertaken by the Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS) and ASSAf targeting member countries of the IAP.

The report points out that “great strides have been made in enrolling more women in undergraduate courses, especially in the biological and chemical sciences (success has been more limited in the areas of physics, mathematics and engineering), there remains significant challenges in ensuring that the best women scientists are able to have fulfilling careers with increasing levels of responsibility, eventually taking up leadership and decision-making positions.”

National academies with the largest shares of women members are the Cuban Academy of Sciences (27%) and the Caribbean Academy of Sciences (26%). The national science aca-demies of Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Honduras are among the list of the top 10 academies with the largest shares of women members.

Women are ‘best’ represented in the social sciences, humanities and arts (16% of all mem-bers in this discipline, across all science academies, are women), followed by the biological sciences (15%) and the medical and health sciences (14%). Women’s representation as academy members is least in the mathematical sciences (6%) and engineering sciences (5%).

Findings for the three global science academies – Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS), the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) – show a similar picture: women are ‘best’ represented among academy members in the social sciences and humanities.

The National Academy of Sciences in the US (47%), together with two European academies (Switzerland and Sweden, both 47%), have the best representation of women as members of the governing body. Outside Europe, Cuba recorded 40%, Canada, 38% and Panama, 38%. Relatively high figures were also recorded for three other European academies: the Netherlands (43%), the UK (40%) and Ireland (36%).