In two previous posts published online at the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association Blog (FWSA) (one, two) I discussed women’s status in psychology. First I looked at the underrepresentation of women as authors in seven academic psychology journals: The Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Review of General Psychology, Teaching of Psychology, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology and Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Here I found that women were underrepresented as authors in all journals under examination and that The Scandinavian Journal of Psychology showed the greatest underrepresentation of female authors in comparison between the journals despite the Scandinavian countries progressive laws concerning work and family.

In the second post I examined other “country specific” journals and added six additional journals to the study. I was aware that the journals that I suggest as “country specific” of course are not representative as such of the country in question, since authors from all over the world can publish in whichever journal, but the “country specific” journals might provide some information on which subjects are of interest and whether or not gender equality is even considered. The six journals that I examined were: British Journal of Psychology, Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, The American Journal of Psychology, Swiss Journal of Psychology, North American Journal of Psychology and Australian Journal of Psychology. The analysis showed once again that The Scandinavian Journal of Psychology had the largest underrepresentation of female authors.

To further discuss women’s underrepresentation in publications and authorship I wanted to look at what has been referred to as the especially feminised topics or areas of psychology versus the less feminised areas and compare these. Does the underrepresentation of women exist throughout psychology as a whole, even the fields considered feminised?

Previous research has used the notion of “feminisation” to describe the phenomenon of growing numbers of women into certain areas of research and work (Irvine & Vermilya, 2009). According to Ward (2002) the feminisation of the work force is characterised by the decline in male employment in manufacturing and the increase of female employment in the service sector. Male employment has traditionally been more organised and unionised while female employment tends to be less organised and generally part-time. Women often work part-time in order to care for children or engage in domestic responsibilities.

Psychology has over the last decades grown immensely in the participations of women in the field and a constantly increasing number of undergraduate and postgraduate students are women. In response to this claimed feminisation, some universities were found to favour male applicants, in order to counteract this progress (Goodheart & Markham, 1999). Critics have also expressed worry that the field of psychology might lose status and fear that psychologist’s income might decline as it becomes a feminised profession (Goodheart & Markham, 1999; Ostertag & McNamara, 1991; Keates & Stam, 2009). Keates and Stam (2009) state that women are considered a “problem” within psychology that needs to be solved. While feminisation is dealt with, and considered a problem, discussions rarely mention the masculinisation of higher education (O’Connor, 2008). The claim that feminisation of psychology is problematic or troublesome has been met with much resistance and authors such as Goodheart and Markham (1999) and Ostertag and McNamara (1991) have discussed this issue.

It appears as if counselling psychology, (Irvine & Vermilya, 2009) clinical psychology, (Goodheart & Markham, 1999) educational psychology, (Olos & Hoff, 2006; Sentell et al. 2001) developmental psychology, and social psychology (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991) have been the most dramatically feminised fields within psychology. According to numbers from 1989 women made up 53.2% of general subfields of psychology, 57.5% in teaching and educational psychology, 56.9% in counselling psychology, and 53.9% in social psychology, although the increase in women studying psychology extends to all fields (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991). The fields within psychology which appear to very recently have been more male-dominated are experimental, comparative, physiological, and industrial/organisational psychology. In 1989 men made up the slight majority in experimental psychology, 52.1%, and 53.9% in organisational and industrial psychology (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991). More recent figures point to the fact that women in general constitute about 70% of professionals and students of psychology (Sentell et al. 2001; Pruitt et al. 2010). We have seen as increase in women of all subfield of psychology and we can estimate that approximately 70% of psychologists and students in the great majority of subfields are now women.

The number of women enrolled as students of psychology in America has increased greatly over time. In 1971, women constituted 25% of doctoral students. By the early 1990’s, women received 61% of doctoral degrees, and in 2001 in the U.S., women constituted the majority within all psychological subfields (Sentell et al. 2001). The numbers of women graduating with a bachelor degree in psychology were 77.8% in 2004, compared to all degrees awarded in 1966 being 40.8%. Similarly, in 2006, 71.3% of doctorate degrees were awarded to women while in 1958 this number was only 18% (Pruitt et al. 2010).The numbers of women who are involved in psychology as practicing psychologists have increased dramatically over the last couple of decades. Women’s professional status and development, however, does not appear to have increased as rapidly as the number of women in psychology (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991). On average, Ostertag and McNamara (1991) found that in 1983 American female psychologists made a yearly average of $5,700 less than their male counterparts who held the same degree. Worryingly, in 1987 this number appeared to have increased to a yearly difference in earnings of men and women of $6,700 dollars. Sentell et al. (2001) found that even when patient demographics, practice profiles, caseloads, and payment sources were controlled for male psychologists earned much more than female psychologists did. When calculated using the regression model, if female psychologists were paid according to male psychologist wages, they would earn on average $16, 440 more per year (Sentell et al. 2001). A contributing factor to the lower pay of women is that the fields that many women specialise in, such as educational psychology, are regarded as less prestigious and are characterised by lower pay and less funding (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991). Women are most likely to hold professorial positions in the Humanities and Social Sciences and it is common for these areas to be neglected in terms of funding (O’Connor, 2008).

Just as women’s pay is less than that of their male counterparts, women’s advancement in academia is also worryingly lacking behind. According to numbers in 1983, U.S. women held 19% of tenured positions which increased by less than 1% for 1985, and a further 1.5% in 1987 (Ostertag & McNamara, 1991). Interestingly, at a similar time in history (1990’s) white men comprised about 33% of the U.S. population and still constituted 85% of tenured professors (Howard, 1998). Women are not only underrepresented as tenured professors but also as editors of journals and members of editorial boards. In fact, women are underrepresented on editorial boards even in relation to their representation as authors (Metz & Harzing, 2009). Skinner and Louw (2009) found evidence for the fact that the feminisation of psychology appears more advanced in South Africa than it does in Europe or the U.S. Their 2009 study showed that the great majority of students, academics, and researchers were women, although men usually held the higher professorial positions. White women were also overrepresented with Black women being underrepresented.

In order to attempt to answer the above stated question, if the underrepresentation of women in psychology exist throughout psychology as a whole, even the fields considered feminised, I compared the numbers of women publishing in general psychology journals, in especially feminised fields, and in male-dominated fields in comparison to the numbers of men who publish. The intent was to see if more women published in Teaching of Psychology and Counselling Psychology Quarterly (especially feminised fields) than Professional Psychology and Review of General Psychology (general psychology journals) and than Journal of Experimental Psychology and Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (recently male-dominated fields). I hypothesised that more women would published in the fields considered especially feminised. 

Results from general psychology journals:

In order to examine journals from the more general fields of psychology I choose Professional Psychology and Review of General Psychology. The results over time from Professional Psychology shows that women are much underrepresented as authors between 1996-2005. In 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 women publish in an equal amount to men. In 2009 more women than men published articles in the journal. However, the percentage of women is just above 54% and not near the 70% that women are estimated to constitute. In 2010 the number of women authors declined.

An examination of the Review of general Psychology shows that women are highly underrepresented as authors in comparison to men. In no year do women publish an equal amount of articles, or more articles, in comparison to the amount of men who publish.

Results from journals from especially feminised fields:

Teaching and educational psychology are believed to be one of the most feminised fields, if not the most feminised field, of psychology. Therefore, it was surprising to see that women authors were behind their male colleagues in regards to the amount of published articles in the journal Teaching of Psychology. Only in 2010 are more articles authored by women than men.

Another feminised field of psychology is counselling which I hypothesised would, together with educational psychology, show the least underrepresentation of women as authors of academic articles. When examining the field through looking at the journal Counselling Psychology Quarterly the field did not appear especially feminised. We can see a rise in the amount of women who publish in the later years, from about 2006 and on and that more women than men authored articles in 1998 and 2003. However, women are still underrepresented as authors in comparison to the number of women in the field.

Results from journals from recently male-dominated fields:

Experimental psychology belongs to the “recently male-dominated” field of psychology together with occupational and organizational psychology, hence the examination includes the journal of Experimental Psychology and the journal titled Occupational and Organizational Psychology. When looking at the graphs we can see that both journals display a quite remarkable underrepresentation of women as authors of its published articles.

When examining the six journals based on how feminised previous research has found different fields of psychology to be, we can see that the numbers of men and women who publish in the two journals from the especially feminised fields do overlap a bit more than the other journals do. The biggest underrepresentation of women appear in Professional Psychology, Experimental Psychology and Occupational and Organizational Psychology. There are some indications that women publish more in the fields that are especially feminised but the results are not as clear cut as hypothesised.


Goodheart, Carol D & Markham, Bonnie (1999) The Feminization of Psychology: Implications for psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, 29(1), pp.130-138.

Howard, Judith, A (1998) “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? Reflections on the State of Sexism”. Sociological Forum 13(3): 545-555.

Irvine, Leslie & Vermilya, Jenny (2010) “Gender Work in a Feminized Profession: The Case of Veterinary Medicine”. Gender & Society 24(1): 56-82.

Keates, Jeany & Stam, Henderikus, J (2009) “The Disadvantaged Psychological Scene: Educational Experiences of Women in Early Canadian Psychology”. Canadian Psychology 50(4): 273-282.

Metz, Isabel & Harzing, Anne-Wil (2009) Gender Diversity in Editorial Boards of Management Journals,Academy of Management Learning & Education,8(4), pp. 540-557.

O’Connor, Pat (2008) “The Elephant in the Corner: Gender and Policies related to Higher Education”. Administration 56(1): 85-110.

Olos Luiza & Hoff, Ernst-H (2006) Gender Ratios in European Psychology, European Psychologist,11(1), pp. 1-11.

Ostertag, Patricia, A & McNamara, Regis, J (1991) “Feminization” of Psychology”. Psychology of Women Quarterly 15: 349-369.

Pruitt, Nathan T; Johnson, Adanna J; Catlin, Lynn & Knox, Sarah (2010) Influences of Women Counseling Psychology Associate Professors’ Decisions Regarding Pursuit of Full Professorship,The Counseling Psychologist, 38(8), pp. 1139-1173.

Sentell, Tetine, Pingitore, David, Scheffler, Richard, Schwalm, Douglas & Haley, Michael (2001) “Gender Differences in Practice Patterns and Income Among Psychologists in Professional Practice”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 32(6): 607-617.

Skinner, Kerry & Louw, Johann (2009) “The feminization of psychology: data from South Africa”. International Journal of Psychology 44(2): 81-92.

Ward, Lizzie (2002) “Globalization and the Third Way”. Feminist Review 70: 138-173.

Elin has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies. Her interests include feminism, gender stereotypes, the sexualization of women and the portrayal of women and men in media. More of her work can be found at the fwsablog, thefword, metapsychology and XY online.