A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

‘Hidden Figures’ No More


Many women made significant contributions to population genetics as programmers but were not recognized as authors.

Inspired by the 2016 blockbuster Hidden Figures, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez, PhD, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and collaborators at San Francisco State University analyzed the contributions of women in population genetics.

By looking at all the studies published in a single population genetics journal from 1970 to 1990, they found that many female computer programmers responsible for developing and running computational simulations to test hypotheses explaining genetic differences with populations were recognized in the papers’ acknowledgements section rather than listed as authors. In fact, of the acknowledged programmers, 43 percent were women while only 7.4 percent of the authors were women.

This difference was even more pronounced in the 1970s, when 59 percent of programmers recognized in the papers’ acknowledgements section were women. 

The findings were published in the February issue of the journal Genetics. Huerta-Sanchez discussed the study’s key findings and implications.

Read a Q&A with Huerta-Sanchez here.


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