Gender representation on mathematical sciences journal editorial boards

Backed by Derek Kaufman, Jude Higdon-Topaz, Bill And Denise Topaz, Susan Koo, Ann Wiesman, Leah Keshet, Rachel Levy, Michael Groechenig, Elaine Spiller,, and 118 other backers
Macalester College
Saint Paul, MN
Data ScienceMathematics
DOI: 10.18258/6930
Raised of $6,000 Goal
Funded on 5/26/16
Successfully Funded
  • $7,515
  • 125%
  • Funded
    on 5/26/16

Project Results

We quantified gender representation on editorial boards of 435 mathematical sciences journals. Using a combination of automated tools and crowdsourcing, we determined that 8.9% of the of the 13,067 math editorships in our sample are held by women, in comparison to 16% amongst faculty in mathematical science departments that grant doctoral degrees. Our analysis also detected subgroups (e.g., journals, publishing houses, and countries) that are statistical outliers, having significantly higher or lower representation of women than the background level.

About This Project

Women are grievously underrepresented in the mathematical sciences. Because publication of research is key to academic career advancement and because research has repeatedly uncovered gender bias penalizing women in professional circumstances, we use tools of data science to study 600 mathematical sciences journal editorial boards. We quantify gender representation on these boards and examine its association with characteristics such as impact factor, publishing house, and mathematical subfield.

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What is the context of this research?

By many measures, gender balance in the mathematical sciences is not improving. For example, the percentage of female mathematics Ph.D. recipients has been fluctuating around 28% for 15 years. Currently, women account for 15% of faculty in mathematics departments at doctoral degree granting institutions, and merely 11% at the tenured level. [See these statistics from the U.S. government and from the American Mathematical Society.]

What is the significance of this project?

Because research publication is crucial for placement in and advancement through careers at academic institutions of many types, it is crucial to examine the representation of women on the editorial boards that determines the final acceptance or rejection of research articles. Indeed, it has been hypothesized that editorial boards may operate in a biased manner, and furthermore, that gender imbalance on these boards deprives women of valuable professional experiences, thus hindering their social-professional networks. Few studies of editorial board gender makeup have been performed; a handful of examples come from the fields of management, medicine, and archaeology. To our knowledge, systematic data in STEM fields is nonexistent, and this includes the mathematical sciences.

What are the goals of the project?

In the first stage of our work, we use crowdsourcing to gather 600 journal editorial boards, including each editor's name, title (e.g., Associate Editor), institutional affiliation, and address. In the second stage, we use crowdsourcing to classify the gender of each editor. We will analyze our data set to quantify gender balance and examine associations with mathematical subfield, journal impact factor, and more.

We have already performed pilot studies demonstrating that both stages of work can be carried out using the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. Once funded, we estimate completing data collection within 2 weeks, and an additional 1 - 2 months to analyze data and write up results. To share our work with the public, we will submit it to a rapid-publication, open-access venue.


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Information about editorial boards is stored in a variety of formats on the Internet, including .html pages, .pdf files, and spreadsheets. Thus, it is impractical to automate the task of gathering this data. Instead, we use the crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to perform HITs (human intelligence tasks) to gather and validate this data. With approximately 13,000 editorial board members names gathered from 600 journals, we must then determine gender. This can be accomplished by searching for pictures of each editor or text that refers to the editor using gendered pronouns. We again use MTurk. For validity, the gender of each board member must be classified by multiple individuals.

MTurk is a for-fee service. Macalester College has generously granted us some funds for our project, but they are not sufficient to cover our MTurk costs. We cannot complete data collection without the budget to purchase additional MTurk HITs.

Endorsed by

I will be very interested in the results.
To build diversity in science, we need to understand the barriers and systems that affect advancement. This is an exciting project with potential benefits well beyond mathematics and beyond journal editing. Great project and important issue. Plus, Chad is a genius and a super-nice person -- anything he does is amazing!
There is no question that gender equity and representation is a concern across all of the sciences, and in the mathematical sciences in particular. It is impossible to address this concern without information and studies, and this is exactly the sort of study that will move us in the right direction. Professor Topaz has a long history of publicly speaking out about this issue and has both the passion and the statistical expertise to move the project forward.
Thanks for looking at this question and I will be interested to see results!
Chad and Shilad's work is a really important step in identifying (or ruling out!) one potential source of gender bias in math publishing. I hope their study will pave the way for similar work in other STEM fields!
Research demonstrates that an awareness of bias, individual or institutional, is crucial if we hope to change that bias. This project is likely to spur important conversations in a field that needs more women. I have great confidence in these researchers' ability to uncover this bias and take action to alter structures that impede progress.
I am very interested to hear the results of this study.
This is a good idea whose time had come. Chad Topaz is the ideal person to achieve these goals.
Interesting data-driven project. I'm curious to see what we may learn.
Thank you so much Chad and Shilad for undertaking this very interesting and important project.
Yes! Thank you for taking on this big project.
As a woman in statistics, I am passionate about equality of representation on journal editorial boards. Research has shown that having visible role models that "look like you" can increase persistence in underrepresented fields like STEM. And of course, journal editors are in a position of power as the gatekeepers of who gets to the peer-review step. This research will answer an open question of what the actual gender representation on boards is, and Chad and Shilad are well-qualified to carry it out.
This is a great project, I will be very interested in hearing about the results. The team is well qualified to do this research.
Data on gender imbalance is sometimes really difficult to get hold of, so this project will give us really important insight into one possible aspect of gender bias in mathematics. Chad Topaz is passionate about increasing the participation of women in STEM subjects and it will be very interesting to see the results.
I sat in on the committee's deliberations at Macalester that led to college funding a portion of Chad and Shilad's terrific research project. I remember thinking that this was an interesting and innovative approach that, depending on their findings, could potentially be very helping in explaining the relative dearth of women in mathematical sciences. Knowing both Chad and Shilad, I can say that they totally "get" why it's so important to have women in the math world. I'm delighted by their commitment to understanding this issue.
This is a very interesting project. It's an issue that is often discussed and it will be good to have some proper data on which to base discussion and possible future initiatives.
This is a fascinating idea, and I'm glad that Chad is bringing his data-analyzing talents to bear on a significant issue. Clever use of Mechanical Turk, too. Can physics be next?

Meet the Team

Chad Topaz
Chad Topaz
Professor of Mathematics


Macalester College
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Shilad Sen
Shilad Sen
Associate Professor of Computer Science


Macalester College
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Chad Topaz

Professor of Mathematics Chad Topaz (A.B. Harvard, Ph.D. Northwestern) is an applied mathematician at Macalester College. His research in nonlinear dynamics, pattern formation, and complex systems has been supported continuously by the National Science Foundation since 2006. Chad's honors include a New Directions Research Professorship at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (the first given to a liberal arts college faculty member), a Kavli Frontiers Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences, a Board of Trustees Award from Macalester College, and the 2013 Outstanding Paper Award of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, given to three publications selected from the pool of 16 SIAM journals over the prior three years.

Chad's teaching career stands on an intense passion for human learning, on scrupulous attention to learners’ needs and challenges, and on the belief that education is both an art and a science. He has won UCLA's Robert Sorgenfrey Distinguished Teaching Award in mathematics and Macalester College's Rossmann Excellence in Teaching Award. With teaching interests including calculus, scientific computing, differential equations, mathematical modeling, and complex analysis, Chad also has created a seminar for first year students called "Death, Devastation, Blood, War, Horror, and Mathematics." One of his greatest fulfillments has been the melding of his teaching and research lives in the sphere of undergraduate research. He has advised over 70 summer research, capstone, independent study, and honors experiences, with approximately 50% of these for women and members of other underrepresented groups. Chad has been invited to speak about curriculum and/or pedagogy to audiences such as the Annapolis Group, the New York Six Colleges, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the Minnesota Private Colleges Council, as well as numerous college and university mathematics departments.

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Shilad Sen

Associate Professor of Computer Science Shilad Sen (B.A./B.M Northwestern, Ph.D. University of Minnesota) builds systems that empower people to be better contributors to online communities and studies inequalities in user generated content. His research draws on techniques from data-mining, interface design, and social science to encourage members to contribute better content to their communities, and enable communities to identify high-quality contributions from members.

Dr. Sen received his Ph.D. under John Riedl at the University of Minnesota from GroupLens Research. He has extensive industry experience including six years at a startup that built movie recommenders, and experience at Google, IBM Research, Target Corporation, and Thomson Reuters R & D.

When not teaching or researching, Shilad plays jazz saxophone, plays squash, and spends time with his wife Katy, son Sidney, and daughter Stella.

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Additional Information

Statistics on gender representation in all fields aggregated (blue) and mathematical sciences (red) at the level of bachelor's degree recipients (dotted), doctoral degree recipients (dashed), and faculty and doctoral-granting institutions (solid). Data come from a variety of sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics and the American Mathematical Society.

Project Backers

  • 145Backers
  • 125%Funded
  • $7,515Total Donations
  • $51.83Average Donation
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