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October 22, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

The hard numbers behind scholarly publishing's gender gap - The Chronicle of Higher Education investigates the nature of gender disparity in science and humanities publishing, with the help of researcher Jennifer Jacquet in collaboration with Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington, whose Eigenfactor tool (previously) is used to map the intersection of gender and authorship in JSTOR articles from 1665 to 2011.

"Although the percentage of female authors is still less than women's overall representation within the full-time faculty ranks, the researchers found that the proportion has increased as more women have entered the professoriate. They also show that women cluster into certain subfields and are somewhat underrepresented in the prestigious position of first author. In the biological ­sciences, women are even more underrepresented as last author. The last name on a scientific article is typically that of the senior scholar, who is not necessarily responsible for doing most of the research or writing but who directs the lab where the experiment was based...

"The data show that over the entire 345 years, 22 percent of all authors were female. (Even though few papers in the JSTOR archive originated in the first 100 years, the researchers still felt that examining the entire data set was worthwhile.) The data also show that women were slightly less likely than that to be first author: About 19 percent of first authors in the study were female. Women were more likely to appear as third, fourth, or fifth authors...

"As the proportion of female authors over all has grown, the biologists' study found, so has the percentage of women as first authors. In fact, by 2010 about the same proportion of women were first authors as were authors in general—about 30 percent.

"But those gains have not been mirrored in the last-author position, which is of particular importance in the biological sciences. According to the data, in 2010 only about 23 percent of last authors over all were female. In molecular and cell biology, women represented almost 30 percent of authorships from 1990 to 2010, but only 16.5 percent of last authors. And over that same time period in ecology and evolution, women represented nearly 23 percent of authors but only 18.5 percent of last authors.

"``The gap between women as first authors and women as last authors is actually growing, which suggests that women in scientific fields are allowed to have ideas and do most of the work on a paper, but do not yet have the big grants and labs full of students and postdocs that would establish them in the prestigious last-author position,'' says Ms. Jacquet."
posted by Blazecock Pileon (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The gap between women as first authors and women as last authors is actually growing, which suggests that women in scientific fields are allowed to have ideas and do most of the work on a paper, but do not yet have the big grants and labs full of students and postdocs that would establish them in the prestigious last-author position,'' says Ms. Jacquet.

Caveat: I know basically nothing about academic publishing. Is the last author position usually an older individual? It seems like a position that's described as "senior scholar, who is not necessarily responsible for doing most of the research or writing but who directs the lab where the experiment was based" would seem to be something you'd expect to be mostly older academics, and so you'd expect it to be a lagging indicator.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:01 PM on October 22, 2012


Bulgaroktonos - yes, you are correct. But the divergence between the first author trend and the all authors trend suggest that it isn't a lag (you'd expect the two trends to grow at the same rate, although starting from different points if there was only a time lag involved).

Weird side issue - why are none of the researchers in the article referred to by their (I assume) proper honourific "Dr."?
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:15 PM on October 22, 2012


A lag between numbers of women in senior versus junior positions is certainly to be expected when women are first entering a field. Women have been working in science (especially biology!) in sufficient numbers for long enough now, however, that, merely by the numbers, more should be in those senior positions already.
posted by eviemath at 2:27 PM on October 22, 2012


That data set tool is very interesting, even only looking at percentages. A field like anthropology, traditionally seen as a relatively female-heavy field, has just barely a quarter female authors (and physical anthropology about a fifth)! Even education is only 37% female-authored. Feminist history? 50.6%.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:51 PM on October 22, 2012


How were these subfields broken out? The ones for math are a hot mess. "Spaces of subsets," whatever that is, is a subfield, and number theory is nowhere to be found.
posted by escabeche at 4:08 PM on October 22, 2012


hydrobatidae: The Chronicle of Higher Education persists in using an style guide that says only medical doctors get called Dr. This is in spite of the actual history of the term (doctor of philosophy is an ancient title, MD a rather recent one, etc). It's annoying when th New York Times does it, but like you I find it flabbergasting that the Chronicle does it.

I did not go to all those years of Evil Medical School to get called Mrs.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:49 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feminist history? 50.6%

Whaaaa
posted by stoneandstar at 5:40 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of curious about the analysis they did to see that their algorithm isn't giving them meaningless information, which, naturally, isn't discussed in the article. For example... should we worry about the possibility that women are more likely than men to publish under not obviously gendered names? (I don't know if this is the case, though it happens in certain genres of fiction.) Should they have even included math at all if they're looking at author order? (It sounds like they counted first authors for all of JSTOR. The number of math papers is dwarfed by subjects where author order is a matter of prestige, but still.)

I'm also inevitably curious to what extent math is an outlier in listing authors alphabetically. I guess I should just be relieved that this isn't something I have to negotiate.
posted by hoyland at 6:06 PM on October 22, 2012


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