Male-dominated editorial boards are still the norm at most top psychology journals despite women representing the majority of academics within the discipline, a new study has found.

Of the 50 most-cited journals in psychology, three-quarters (76 per cent) had editorial boards where men outnumbered women – with the proportion of female editors falling to below 10 per cent at one publication, US and UK researchers found.

Overall, 40 per cent of editors were women in these journals but this was still lower than the gender split within university psychology departments, the study says: latest US data found 45 per cent of full professors, and 65 per cent of assistant professors, are women, while women outnumber men three to one at postgraduate level, says the Nature Neuroscience study.

Some editors-in-chief interviewed claimed they had made significant efforts to correct this imbalance but found it “challenging”. “I frankly lost count of the number of invitations I extended to women that were declined because of time pressures on them,” explains one editor, who added: “Several women explicitly noted  that taking on such a demanding role would not be appropriate given the number of obligations they have to family, students and collaborators. Only one man cited similar concerns.”

The study found an even greater skew towards male editors in top neuroscience journals, where just 30 per cent of editors are women. This was, however, more consistent with the split found on US campuses where about a third of neuroscience professors and 45 per cent of assistant professors are female, says the study.

The study also noted the disproportionate representation of US-based editors at top journals in both disciplines, with 61 per cent and 52 per cent of editors coming from the States.

One of the study’s authors, Katerina Fotopoulou, professor in psychodynamic neuroscience at UCL, told Times Higher Education that the relative lack of gender and geographical diversity on boards may mean certain topics more likely to interest women researchers – such as the study of female sex hormones and their relation to mental health disorders, or pregnancy-related depression – are under-represented in research.

“Women may also be more willing to study the neurobiology of emotions because they do not need to worry about betraying any social expectations of strict, non-emotional masculinity,” added Professor Fotopoulou.

Having such a strong US tradition within editorial boards also “risks stagnation” in science …….


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