The magazine, that is, not the natural world. They’ve published a good editorial today in which they acknowledge inequalities in their editorial staff (14% of their editors are women, 6% of the researcher profiles they did in 2012 were about women).
Unfortunately, they do make a few excuses.
One can speculate that there also may be a tendency for women to be less willing than men to push themselves forward, which may lead to editors being less aware of them. But it is certainly the case that women typically spend more time than men as homemakers and looking after children, further reducing the time available for journal contributions
One could say there is also a tendency for men to shout down women, and to assume that they’ll be the ones taking care of the babies. These are all self-perpetuating stereotypes, you know, and the first step in breaking them involves consciously rejecting them.
But the editorial goes beyond that to recommend steps to break unconscious biases.
However, we do not believe that these considerations can fully account for, or excuse, the imbalance in Nature’s pages. Nor do we believe that our own editors consciously discriminate against women.
That leaves the unconscious factors, and here we believe that there is work to do. We believe that in commissioning articles or in thinking about who is doing interesting or relevant work, for all of the social factors already mentioned, and possibly for psychological reasons too, men most readily come to editorial minds. The September paper speculated about an unconscious assumption that women are less competent than men. A moment’s reflection about past and present female colleagues should lead most researchers to correct any such assumption.
We therefore believe that there is a need for every editor to work through a conscious loop before proceeding with commissioning: to ask themselves, “Who are the five women I could ask?”
Under no circumstances will this ‘gender loop’ involve a requirement to fulfill a quota or to select anyone whom we do not know to be fully appropriate for the job, although we will set ourselves internal targets to help us to focus on the task. It is not yet clear just what difference this workflow loop will make. But it seems to us to be a step towards appropriately reflecting in our pages the contributions of women to science.
This is the same step many of us asked meeting organizers to take in the atheist community, to simply start being aware of the gender balance in their speaker rosters and to think about bringing good and interesting women to the fore…which was no problem for anyone and has resulted in great progress. Honestly, I believe that most people want to be fair and can respect people of all sexes, but it takes work to overcome deeply ingrained cultural assumptions.