Inaugural Leiden Ranking: Gender Differences in Publication Outputs – Should business schools have their own Ranking?

There is a new indicator of gender differences which highlights ‘publication outputs’ by academics, which is produced by the team behind the Leiden Ranking of universities. The Leiden Ranking is released annually (since 2011) by Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS). It is the first time the centre has ranked institutions' performance of publication outputs based on gender diversity.

As noted in The Guardian (May 2019), to create the gender ranking, the researchers scanned 14.6m studies published between 2006 and 2017 by scientists at 963 research institutions across the world, determining the gender of authors from their first names. More than a million papers in the sample were co-authored by UK-based scientists.

“The point isn’t necessarily to raise the percentage [of papers authored by women],” said Caroline Wagner, a public policy scholar at Ohio State University in Columbus, who was involved with conceptualising the gender ranking. “The point is to examine the systemic obstacles to women's success.”

Wagner said academic journals needed to do better, putting more women on editorial boards and accounting for the fact that women’s work was under-cited across nearly every field, but especially in the natural sciences and engineering. “It can’t be because their work is that much worse,” she said. Ludo Waltman, the deputy director of CWTS, who created the gender metric, agreed there were biases against women in academia. He said he believed the trends seen today were a consequence of the low percentages of women who studied for PhDs in the 1980s and 1990s.

As one of those women who completed their PhD (PT) in the late 1990s, exploring women academics' career experiences in UK business schools, I’m staggered that in 2019 I’m posing the following question to our business and management community: what are the structural barriers to women’s publication outputs and how do we, as leaders of business schools and as journal Editors, Associate Editors and Reviewers, activate for change? This is surely a research question worthy of (at least) doctoral study.

With this in mind, there are some benefits to releasing this ranking of institutions by performance of gender differences in publication outputs. Similar to Athena SWAN, it provides a language to name a problem and to talk about gendered barriers to publication. From experience these barriers are not unlike the gender issues associated with student module evaluations, as both publication and student module evaluations are critical to promotion.

How do we consider the gendered nature of academic publication in promotion evaluations? What about in the Research Excellence Framework process? Using this type of ranking could provoke our community into using a gender aware lens to problematise our appointments and promotions processes and reviews.

As part of business schools’ commitment to gender diversity and Athena SWAN action plans, we can add research into the barriers to publication and international research collaborations to identify the issues. If we do not address these issues, business schools will continue to be part of the gender inequity problem.

We could introduce ECR training with a focus on how to become gender aware researchers, reviewers, editorial board members and, in particular, Editors; Editors hold power in shaping the production of knowledge and who gets in and who is kept out. If those in positions of power are not willing to challenge gendered assumptions and practices, it is likely we will be reading a similar set of statistics in 20 years' time.

We could also work with research mentors to disseminate the findings of the Leiden ranking and provoke discussions in Research Committees and Executive Boards about what we can do to highlight, challenge and address the barriers.

If as a business and management community we can create space to talk openly and transparently about who gets opportunities, sponsorship and mentoring, and who gets invited into ‘networks’ which lead to special issues, invitations to publish, and so on, then we are at least beginning to shape a more gender aware approach to research and publication. We should also be making certain activities which matter in academic careers transparent, such as how to build an international network for publication and securing the resources to do so. These are often discussed functionally but not with gender awareness.

Should the Chartered Association of Business Schools and British Academy of Management, who jointly deliver the Directors of Research Development Programme, request that members report on and consider the percentage of women academics publishing in their Schools and therefore launch our own business school ranking of the percentage of women who are publishing?

Should members be asked to provide information on the percentage of men and women PhDs entered annually into the system and then track progress towards publication?

There are numerous ways that the business school community can begin to raise the issues about gendered barriers to publication and work to change these. We have to start somewhere.


By Professor Sharon Mavin and Professor Carole Elliott.

Professor Sharon Mavin is the Director of Newcastle University Business School, a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and of the Academy of Social Sciences, and Chair of the Chartered ABS Diversity Committee.

Professor Carole Elliott is Professor of HRD at the University of Roehampton Business School.