Gender Diversity in Academic Publishing

When it comes to academia, gender diversity declines as we move higher on the hierarchy. On the base level, women represent the majority of academic students in the US, but their share decreases with each next level on the academic ladder.

This report focuses on global female contribution to academic publishing over the last decade, as well as the comparison between countries and universities when it comes to gender diversity. We’ll also look into how academic publishing diversity compares with the number of women in academia on all levels.

How many academic papers are published by women?

  • Between 2017 and 2020, around 31.99% of academic papers, reviews, surveys, and other documents published globally were published by women. This amounts to over 6.89 million documents over a 4-year period.
  • This was a 3.37% increase compared to the previous 4-year period when women authors accounted for 30.95% of all published papers.
  • Over the last decade, the share of academic papers written by female authors has increased by 7.24%, and since 2008 the increase is 12.81%.
  • However, women still account for less than a third of all published academic papers worldwide.
  • In the United States, around 35.17% of all academic papers released between 2017 and 2020 were credited to female authors, an increase from 33.24% between 2014 and 2017.
PeriodTotal published documents (in millions)Articles by female authorsShare of articles by female authorsChange
  • Between 2017 and 2020, over 1.65 million academic papers in the United States were published by female authors, the most in the world.
  • Chinese female scientists published over 672 thousand papers over the same period, the second most globally.
  • The United Kingdom is the third largest producer of academic papers published by women over the last 4 years, with over 413 thousand papers.
  • These 3 countries, along with Italy and Germany, account for more than 50% of all academic papers released by female authors.
CountryArticles published by female authors (2017-2020) – in thousandsShare of articles published by female authors
United States1,654.2035.17%
United Kingdom413.1032.79%
South Korea136.6919.15%
  • Serbian female academic authors account for 52.43% of all academic papers published in that country between 2017 and 2020, the biggest share of female authors among all countries worldwide (publishing more than 10,000 academic papers per year).
  • Argentina is the only other country where women represent the majority of academic authors over this period, with 50.26% of papers published by female authors.
  • The United States is ranked 18th globally when it comes to the share of academic papers published by women with 35.17%, the UK is 26th with 32.79%, while China ranks 37th with 25.44%.
CountryTotal articles, in thousands (2017-2020)Articles by female authorsShare of articles published by female authors
New Zealand81.0929.7436.68%
United States4,703.711,654.2035.17%
South Africa109.5338.3435.00%
  • Among universities, 88,281 academic papers published over the last 4 years at Harvard University are credited to female authors, the most among all universities worldwide.
  • Women account for 36.79% of academic authors at Harvard between 2017 and 2020.
  • The University of Toronto released over 54,422 papers published by women over the same period, the second-most in the world, while the University of São Paulo ranks third with over 53,110 documents by female authors.
UniversityCountryTotal articles (2017-2020)Articles by female authorsShare of articles by female authors
Harvard UniversityUnited States239,96488,28136.79%
University of TorontoCanada137,19754,42239.67%
University of São PauloBrazil125,41353,11042.35%
Johns Hopkins UniversityUnited States114,08945,72940.08%
University of Washington – SeattleUnited States93,36537,99040.69%
University of MichiganUnited States97,58936,65037.56%
University College LondonUnited Kingdom98,98236,03736.41%
University of MelbourneAustralia90,95435,72539.28%
University of CopenhagenDenmark95,73335,37536.95%
University of ParisFrance84,49233,67639.86%
Stanford UniversityUnited States99,10532,48932.78%
Duke UniversityUnited States82,70031,68938.32%
University of California – San FranciscoUnited States71,99631,63243.94%
University of PennsylvaniaUnited States84,86531,01836.55%
University of SydneyAustralia76,10530,87740.57%
University of OxfordUnited Kingdom94,88930,76432.42%
Sapienza University of RomeItaly71,61530,28942.29%
Karolinska InstSweden67,73928,57742.19%
University of MilanItaly63,81228,52444.70%
Sorbonne UniversityFrance77,95027,87335.76%

Other facts on women in academia

As stated in the introduction of this report, women have a disproportionate low presence at the higher levels of academia. The fact that only 35% of academic articles are published by women demonstrates this inequality:

  • Over 59.5% of all college students in the United States are women as of 2021.
  • As we move up on the ladder, the share of female academics declines – women account for 54% of non-tenure-track professors and 43% of tenured professors, and 33% of full professors.
  • Going further, only 30% of college presidents in the United States are women, and this number drops to 22% when it comes to elite colleges.
  • The gender pay gap is also present in academic institutions, varying from 20% in administration to around 10% in higher management.