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Numbers Going Up

While the proportion of women who are authors on scientific papers has increased in recent years, only two countries have more or less reached gender parity, the Economist reports.

In a report out this week, the academic publisher Elsevier examined the authorship of some 62 million papers published during the past two decades in 11 countries and the European Union. Between 1996 and 2000, about 30 percent of research paper authors were women, but between 2011 and 2015 that increased to 40 percent.

The Economist points out that despite these gains, only Brazil and Portugal had nearly equal numbers of male and female authors; by contrast, only a fifth of research authors in Japan were female.

These overall gains among women are "qualified good news," the Economist says, as it notes that women continue to experience the 'leaky pipeline' phenomenon. For instance, it says that even though 35 percent of undergraduates at Imperial College London are women, only 15 percent of professors are.

While it says that this partly reflects the even worse gender ratios from when those professors were students, the Economist adds that it also underscores societal issues women face. "Even in the most progressive countries, they still shoulder the lion's share of child care and housework," it says. "Boosting their numbers in the laboratory will take more than merely convincing girls that science is cool."

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