Study Finds Women Making Gains in Election to the National Academies

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that there has been significant increases in women scholars in psychology, mathematics, and economics in recent years and even greater increases in the share of women in these fields who have been elected to the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The researchers examined the makeup of the authors of academic papers in the three fields from 1960 onward and compared that to the percentage of women scholars who were elected to the academies. They found that in the early years, the number of women elected to the national academies was less than one might expect given their percentage of published authors in the field.

By the 1990s, the selection of new women members for the academies just about mirrored the percentage of women authors of academic papers.  In 2007, the Beyond Bias and Barriers report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine asked honorary societies to “review their nomination and election processes to address the underrepresentation of women in their memberships.”

Since that time, a preference for women new members has emerged and strengthened in all three fields. “Currently, women are 3 to 15 times more likely to be selected as members of the AAAS and NAS than men with similar publication and citation records,” the authors report. They explain that “the positive preference for women may be in part a reflection of concerns that women face higher barriers to publishing in top journals and may receive less credit for their work. If so, women who succeed in publishing may in fact be better scholars than men with a similar record, potentially justifying a boost in their probabilities of selection as members of the academies.”

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