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Where are the women? Gender inequalities in COVID-19 research authorship
  1. Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes1,
  2. Sanne Peters1,2,
  3. Kelly Thompson3,
  4. Carinna Hockham3,
  5. Katherine Ripullone1,
  6. Mark Woodward1,3,4,
  7. Cheryl Carcel3
  1. 1 The George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  3. 3 The George Institute for Global Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4 Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD, United States
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes; ana.pinho-gomes{at}georgeinstitute.ox.ac.uk

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Summary box

  • Women account for about a third of all authors who published papers related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak in January 2020. Women’s representation is lower still for first and last authorship positions.

  • Gender biases seem to be affecting COVID-19 research similar to other scientific areas, highlighting that women are consistently being under-represented.

  • This may have implications for the availability and interrogation of sex-disaggregated data and therefore our understanding of COVID-19.

  • These gender biases hint at wider gender inequalities in our global response to the pandemic, which may reduce the chance of dealing with it robustly and speedily.

  • Women are under-represented as authors of research papers in many scientific areas, particularly in senior authorship positions.

Introduction

Despite some progress over the last decade, gender inequalities persist in academic and research settings. Previous studies have shown that women have a lesser share of authorship positions overall and are less likely than men to be first or last author, the most relevant positions to career progression.1 The gap between total authorships for women and men has been stable in recent years, but has grown for senior authorships.2

With lockdowns enforced across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers are now working from home and face competing demands from parenting, homeschooling and other caring duties. These roles are predominantly assumed by women, especially in countries with high gender inequality. Women’s representation in research generally, and specifically in the study of COVID-19, may be disproportionately affected by lockdown measures. Under-representation of female researchers tends to create under-representation of issues that are relevant to women in research — in our current situation this may create important gaps in our understanding of COVID-19.

Therefore, we investigated whether gender differences existed in authorship of COVID-19 research since the onset of the pandemic. …

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