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Women in peer review

17th September 2021

Prof Noha El-Bassiouny

The peer reviewing process is essential in maintaining and ensuring the quality of scientific publications. Peer reviewers put on different hats on different occasions as they assume the roles of authors, colleagues and editors to their peers. They play an important role in leading discussions related to their fields, advising their peers on how to better position their research or enhance it, and overall are indispensable in its post-publication acceptance within the scientific community.

Editors and publishers expend considerable efforts in ensuring an objective and unbiased peer review process which involves diverse scholarly voices. Despite the essential role of women in the publication process in general, they remain low in representation within the scholarly community compared to men.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been significantly impacted due to lack of stability and turbulence in school structures as well as the general disruption in work settings which eventually caused a blurred boundary between what was normally “working hours” versus “family time”. In the Arab world, gender role attitudes associating females (more) with child care than with professional careers have also not helped increase female peer review representation.

As a female professor with considerable experience in peer reviewing, editing and publishing research broadly in marketing, sustainability, business ethics and general management, I would strongly recommend leading publishers such as Emerald to provide more incentives for women to battle their ways through academia and engage further with the research community through the following suggestions:

  • Developing a “Women in Peer Review” Seal that can be associated with journals that involve more females on their boards and in the peer review process. This can serve as an incentive for the journal editorship to work more with women in their publication process.
  • From the peer reviewers’ side, annual awards can also be provided (competitively) for diverse voices in the peer review process. These awards can be branded as the “Diversity in Peer Review” award or so.

In order to try and provide a conducive support environment for women in academia in general, Emerald can provide webinars or workshops on work-life balance where leading female academics can participate as role models for their peers. This is one example where I have personally enjoyed participating in with Emerald in the Middle East.