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, 14 (6), e0218598

Male Principal Investigators (Almost) Don't Publish With Women in Ecology and Zoology


Male Principal Investigators (Almost) Don't Publish With Women in Ecology and Zoology

Patricia E Salerno et al. PLoS One.


Representation of women in science drops substantially at each career stage, from early student to senior investigator. Disparities in opportunities for women to contribute to research metrics, such as distinguished speaker events and authorship, have been reported in many fields in the U.S.A. and Europe. However, whether female representation in scientific contributions differs in other regions, such as Latin America, is not well understood. In this study, in order to determine whether female authorship is influenced by gender or institutional location of the last (senior) author or by subfield within ecology, we gathered author information from 6849 articles in ten ecological and zoological journals that publish research articles either in or out of Latin America. We found that female authorship has risen marginally since 2002 (27 to 31%), and varies among Latin American countries, but not between Latin America and other regions. Last author gender predicted female co-authorship across all journals and regions, as research groups led by women published with over 60% female co-authors whereas those led by men published with less than 20% female co-authors. Our findings suggest that implicit biases and stereotype threats that women face in male-led laboratories could be sources of female withdrawal and leaky pipelines in ecology and zoology. Accordingly, we encourage every PI to self-evaluate their lifetime percentage of female co-authors. Female role models and cultural shifts-especially by male senior authors-are crucial for female retention and unbiased participation in science.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1
Change over time by journal in (A) proportion of female authors and (B) proportion of last authors with an institutional affiliation in Latin America. Gray areas represent 95% confidence intervals.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Proportion of female authors in ecological and zoological journals based on gender of last author.
Male last authored articles appear in blue and female last authored articles in red. Panels separate data by (A) journal or (B) region of institutional affiliation. Boxplots show median, first and third quartiles, minimum, and maximum.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Female authorship in articles that have last authors based in different Latin American countries.
(A) Overall proportion of female authors, and (B) proportion of female authors based on gender of last author. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of articles in this study with last-author affiliation in each country. Countries with fewer than 30 publications (Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay) are grouped in the category “Other”. Boxplots show median, first and third quartiles, minimum, and maximum.

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Grant support

JLS received a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Association for University Women ( which contributed to the completion of this work. MPV received assistance with publication costs from the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.