Programme / Thematic Sessions III. c. The Widespread Manifestations and Important Consequences of Gender Bias in Science

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Day 3

Friday / 22 NOV

11:30 - 13:00

Thematic session:
Thematic Sessions III. c. The Widespread Manifestations and Important Consequences of Gender Bias in Science
Organised by:  Portia
Venue: Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Small Lecture Hall

The session’s organiser, Elizabeth Pollitzer, started with an introduction about the implicit, complicit or unconscious and explicit gender bias present in the scientific world. She mentioned that women generally are excluded from highly-paid, prestigious opportunities, for instance, in winning ERC grants. She called attention to the fact that innovation is also biased when a male sample as a norm is taken into consideration: medicines developed only with male samples can be less useful or even dangerous to female bodies. The most striking example of gender-biased development she mentioned was the cc. 35 period tracking applications which automatically transfer data about body temperature to Facebook, even when the user does not have an account. Thus, it can be used to detect whether a woman recently had an abortion, so in countries where abortion is illegal it can be used in such a way that political power can be exercised over personal decisions.


Astrid Linder from Sweden spoke about the goal of making cars safe for both sexes by 2030. At present, all safety devices are tested for males, and an average-sized male dummy represents the whole adult population in safety tests. Thus, any male user different from average beside all the female users are not taken into consideration in the production of new cars. This goes against articles 2, 3 and 8 of the European Union’s principles. Cars are only one of the many devices and places used every day by both sexes but which are designed only for men, as was also described by Caroline Criado Perez in her recent book Invisible Women.


Aldo Stroebel from South-Africa called attention to the fact that even in 2019 in Africa, around 55% of girls of school age never set foot in a school. Less than 20% of members of both sexes get the opportunity to partake in higher education, but the training they can get is predominantly in the fields of social sciences and humanities, while there is no expertise for developing the hard sciences and for producing relevant new knowledge. One of the biggest problems is that inequality is mutually reconstituting. What his institution believes is a solution to these problems are customised research funds in order to help target groups according to their own needs. Mr. Stroebel expressed his hope that in 2021, during the next World Science Forum in South Africa, discussions will evolve around what techniques are already working to solve these problems, as the identification of the problems marks the time action is needed to be taken.


Miyoko Watanabe from Japan presented the striking problem of an aging society in Japan, which requires building a new society, and includes well-being for all. In Japan the most important task is involving the female population in science and development, as it has been statistically proven that patents created by mixed-gender research teams have 44% more economic value than those created only by men. The gender gap is, however, only one aspect of the problem: although senior men especially do not like female bosses, the generation gap is generally a bigger problem for men than the sex gap. Thus, society should be trained to form mixed-gender groups in every field so as to encourage cooperation.


Magdalena Skipper, Editor-in-Chief of Nature magazines, spoke about their strategy to include more female authors in the publications, for example, by acknowledging authorship where it was hidden before. They are trying to encourage the participation of female reviewers in peer-reviewed articles, and made it a policy that for commissioned papers, all should have at least one female author.

As of now, 18% of papers published in Nature Ecology have a female correspondent author. Although Nature does not collect data about the sex of its authors, it now has a strategy to encourage more female participation in every phase of the publishing process.


Rapporteur: Ágnes Máté, University of Szeged, Hungarian Young Academy