Project Details A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences: how to measure it, how to reduce it? - IUPACs Role in ICSU parent project

Project No.:
Start Date:
15 February 2017
End Date:
12 February 2020
Division Name:


This project covers IUPAC’s contributions to the ICSU Project “A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences: how to measure it, how to reduce it?” granted in Feb 2017.

To encourage girls and young women to study and work in science, we will conduct a global survey on female scientists and mathematicians covering background, career, experiences, and attitudes about gender. Results will enable recommendations for stakeholders (e.g., scientific unions, educators, scientists, especially persons in the developing world regions) by identifying key variables shaping women’s experiences in science.

This joint project involves: International Mathematics Union (lead 1), IUPAC (lead 2), IUPAP, IAU, and IUBS as supporting Unions to collaborate on the global survey and a joint study on publication patterns.

The survey will be partly based on the 2011 IUPAP global physicist survey expanded to include chemistry, astronomy and mathematics.

VISIT public website


IUPAC’s role in the overall ICSU project is the development and execution of a global survey, and assistance in interpreting and disseminating results, recommendations, and analysis.

Year 1:
The project will first develop test items of the survey based on IUPAP’s previous survey for global physicists. Some of the original questions will be kept so as to enable cross-field comparison of the data and perhaps also longitudinal studies later. Experts will be invited to help in this review of existing test items and the drafting of new test items. Survey items will all be tested and validated. The specific tasks include regional office workshops and preparation of the questionnaire. Project experts are knowledgeable of other surveys of scientists conducted in national and regional settings.

Year 2:
After the survey has been completed, regional organizations will be asked to help disseminate the survey to female scientists in their respective regions. Data analysis will then follow, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The specific tasks include distribution and collection of data, and initial data analysis. Also, the task group will contribute some source materials about good practices for girls and women in science to a database.

Year 3:
The task group will be responsible for working on the response translation, data cleaning, global, regional and country data analysis. Results of the survey will be organized and drafted into academic papers for publication and dissemination.


Feb 2017 updates – The project benefits of CCE support and expertise.
ICSU announces the 2017 grants award to launch multi-year initiatives in science outreach and education – see ICSU announcement.

May 2017 – Project announcement published in Chem. Int. Apr 2017, pp. 19-20;

June 2017 – Kick-off meeting in Paris
Group photo during day 1 of the workshop at UNESCO, June 3rd.

(From left to right)
1st row from bottom:
Jean Taylor, Sayara Berg, Danielle Gondard-Cozette, Mustafa Sozbilir, Igle Gledhill, Marie-Francoise Ouedraogo, Anne-Sophie Godfroy, L.S.Shashidhara, Bétül Tambay, Ernesto Fernández-Polcuch

2nd row from bottom:
Maria Esteban, Siujatha Ramdorai, Mei-Hung Chiu, Guadalupe Lozano, Anathea Brooks, Francesca Primas, Lucilla Spini, Maria Rosaria Dantonio, Catherine Goldstein, Merrilyn Goos, Helena Mihaljevic-Brandt

3rd row from bottom:
Mark Cesa, Alice Abreu, Clémence Perronnet, Nathalie Fomproix, Marie-Francoise Roy, Elena Bagryanskaya, Benedikt Loewe, Bill Barton

Top row:
Lucía Santamaría, Lisa Frehill, Silvina Ponce-Dawson, Tonya Blowers, Fernanda Arraes Hertelendy, Rachel Ivie


July 2017 updates – Launch of the project public website


Nov 2017 – A progress report for the Gender Gap project was presented by Mei-Hung Chiu and Marie-Francoise Roy (IMU) at the ICSU GA in Taipei, Taiwan, on October 24, 2017. Participants at the assembly provided useful input and positive comments to the project and recognized the values of carrying out such a study for the promotion of gender equity and equality in the world. [Read more]

The first of the three regional workshops took place at the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), Taipei, Taiwan, on November 7-8, 2017. A total of 38 delegates from 12 countries (Australia, China, France India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and USA) representing 9 unions (IMU, IUPAC, IUPAP, IAU, ICIAM, IHUPST, UNESCO, IUBS, and ACM) were present in the workshop. See report at


May 2018Survey initiated. Participation will be open from 1 May until 31 October 2018.

August 2018 – See feature in CI July 2018, pp 14-17,

March 2019 – Follow progress at
Registration to the final meeting of the Gender Gap in Science Project is now open. I will taking place at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste on 4-8 November 2019. The registration will be closed on August 2.

Jan 2020 updates – The efforts to sensitize and further involve the community on the project themes culminated in a final international conference, hosted by ICTP, 4-8 November 2019. This was a huge success, with a total of 102 participants (90 females and 12 males), significantly more than what was anticipated and approved by ICTP (about 30% less). From a geographical point of view, there were 26 participants from Africa, 15 from Asia, 36 from Europe, 11 from Latin America, 11 from North America and 3 from Oceania. A total of 57 countries were represented. The program of the meeting mainly focused on reporting and discussing the results of the project but included also a few invited talks. Various interactive sessions in small groups were organized: computer/hands-on sessions, discussions by discipline and by geographical regions, sessions for mini-projects using the tools of the project, and a world cafe. An invited Colloquium talk (by Prof. Petra Rudolf), a special movie evening (Hidden Figures), a roundtable at SISSA, and a social dinner in downtown Trieste were also part of the successful programme.

For presentations and reports from most sessions see this page

For videos of some lectures see

Feb 2020 final update: This report concludes on a three-year project (2017–2019) funded by the International Science Council and involving 11 scientific partner organizations. The main goal of the project was to investigate the gender gap in STEM disciplines from different angles, globally and across disciplines. The project included (i) a global survey of scientists with more than 32,000 responses; (ii) an investigation of the effect of gender in millions of scientific publications; and (iii) the compilation of best practices to encourage girls and young women to enter STEM fields.

The major findings of the survey include:

– Women’s experiences in both educational and employment settings are consistently less positive than men’s.
– Over a quarter of women respondents across the sciences reported personally experiencing sexual harassment at school or work.
– Women were over 14 times more likely than men to report being personally harassed.
– Women were 1.6 times more likely than men to report interruptions in their studies.
– Women reported less positive relationships with their doctoral advisors, and lower doctoral program quality.

The publications study found that:

– The so-called “productivity gap” is becoming narrower, although in recent cohorts this trend shows signs of stagnation.
– In Mathematics, the proportion of women among authors of scientific papers has increased steadily, growing from less than 10% for the 1970s cohorts to over 27% nowadays. And the evolution in Physics and Astronomy is similar.
– The proportion of women authoring papers in top journals has been significantly increasing in Astronomy and Astrophysics as well as in Chemistry.
– However, it remained static in various top journals in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and at a very low level, beneath 10%, which is significantly below the overall proportion of women authoring papers.

The database of good practice assembles initiatives for reducing the gender gap. They found that:

– By far the most frequent type of initiative involved promoting STEM careers to girls and young women in school or vocational education contexts; for example, by stimulating interest, providing career information, and presenting role models.
– However, simply telling women and girls about STEM opportunities is unlikely to make a great difference to the gender gap, unless other supporting strategies are implemented.

Four strategies were developed out of the database of good practice:

1. Engage families and communities in promoting STEM careers to girls, especially when these careers are contrary to cultural expectations and norms.
2. Engage girls and women in exploring socio-scientific issues.
3. Promote social support for women and girls, such as peer networks and mentoring by more experienced STEM researchers or professionals.
4. Develop Women and girls’ STEM leadership, advocacy and communication skills.

Visit for updates

Final report published 4 March 2020 as

– – –

> See Feature published in Chem Int July 2020, pp. 16-21; 

> See Webinar, 1 Sep 2020

> See IUPAC follow-up project 2020-016-3-020, initiated in August 2020

> Aug 2021 PAC special topic issue: The Gender Gap in Science

Page last updated 27 Sep 2021