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Years and Years

It may take the gender gap in the sciences decades or even longer to close, according to a new analysis.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne gauged the genders of 36 million authors of more than 10 million scientific articles indexed by PubMed or arXiv during the course of 15 years. As they report in PLOS Biology, the Melbourne team led by Cindy Hauser found that 87 of the 115 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) disciplines they examined had fewer than 45 percent female authors. The gap was especially apparent in physics, computer science, mathematics, surgery and chemistry, while fields like nursing, midwifery, and palliative care had more women.

In addition, they note a dearth of female authorship in senior positions and for invited articles.

The researchers also estimated how long, given their current trajectory, it would take various STEMM disciplines to reach gender parity. For some disciplines, like physics, that is expected to take more than 250 years. This led the researchers to suggest that further measures need to be taken to close the gap.

"For example, one could measure the impact of double-blind peer review or invitation-based submission models, which have been proposed to affect the proportion of female authors publishing in a given journal," first author Luke Holman says in a statement.

Their dataset has been publicly archived and is available through an online tool.