Glass ceiling persists on editorial boards

Mount Holyoke professor Andrea Foulkes published a study showing that less than a quarter of editorial boards for statistics and biostatistics are female.

By Keely Sexton

Women comprise less than a quarter of editorial board members on prestigious journals in statistics and biostatistics, according to new research by Andrea Foulkes, professor of mathematics and statistics. The slim percentage of women in the upper echelons of the journals stands in contrast to the fact that women have received more than 40 percent of the doctorates awarded in the fields for the past 17 years. 

The finding is troubling, as editorial boards of scientific journals are “among the most influential bodies in the academy,” according to AMSTAT News, the publication of the American Statistical Association. “Members of these boards play a vital role in identifying referees and soliciting reports, evaluating the nuances and relative contributions of these reports, and ultimately discerning the suitability of manuscripts for publication.”

Further, editorial board positions often go hand in hand with academic advancement, so the gender disparity has implications beyond the boardroom.

“Foulkes urges the leadership of scientific journals in (bio)statistics to take an active role in balancing the sex ratio of board membership by inviting more women to serve in this role,” wrote AMSTAT News.

Foulkes, who is also the chair of her department and co-director of the Program in Data Science, was assisted in her work by Rachel Bostick ’19, Regina Brecha ’17 and Savannah Romeo ’19.

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