A recent article in Nature looked at the gender gap in scientific publishing among a variety of countries. There’s lots of good stuff in there, but the one metric I want to focus on is the ratio of women/men authors. In Canada, it was 0.459, meaning that for every woman author, there are 2.17 male authors.
There’s lots out there on womein in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the challenges they face, and the degree to which they are under-appreciated (including historical figures).
So what can I, a white man, do?
Well, the data in the Nature article had to come from somewhere. So as an actively publishing scientist, I contribute to this phenomenon (regardless of whether my data were included in Nature).
After a bit of musing, I pulled up my current CV and decided to look at the gender gap in my own academic record.
- Male thesis/postdoc supervisors: 5
- Female thesis/postdoc supervisors: 0
- Male thesis committee members/examiners: 10
- Female thesis committee members/examiners: 0
- Male field crew members: 4
- Female field crew members: 2
- Male coauthors: 45
- Female coauthors: 27
That gives me a female/male coauthor ratio of 0.60 (i.e., 27/45), which though an improvement on the national 0.459, still shows the lack of parity. Granted, some of these numbers were beyond my control (e.g., thesis examiners, existing collaborations to which I contributed).
But it’s a simple way to do a little academic introspection. If you’re a PI and supervise students, that’s another ratio that’s easily calculable. Some might argue that certain disciplines have an inherent gender bias in their composition (e.g., engineering tends to be a male-dominated field), so the tendency might be to compare our own F/M ratios to those in the field. But achieving a ratio of under-representation isn’t success (or even mediocrity), and will do nothing to change the status quo.
“But I’m a successful PI, and this will take a lot of time!” some might say. I think taking 30 minutes (or substantially less) is a perfectly acceptable time to look at one’s collaborative and mentoring gender inequality. Divide the number of women by the number of men, and hopefully Tweet your stats using #MyGenderGap
My F/M coauthor ratio: 0.65. Canada: 0.46 #MyGenderGap http://t.co/gBan8WEmFY
— The Lab & Field (@thelabandfield) December 12, 2013
Potnia Theron said:
really curious about gendergap numbers for males v. females.
Female postdoc astronomer in US: 0.235 – that’s pretty terrible (I don’t have a “field team” so I went with group members who weren’t just summer students, and I tried not to double count; i.e. advisor I published with does not get counted as both supervisor and coauthor, each coauthor is counted only once if on multiple papers.)
It’s interesting to calculate the coauthor ratio two ways: once with just the number of people you’ve coauthored any number of papers with, and then again counting the individual citations. I get 0.50 for the first calculation, but a depressing 0.25 for the second. Each of my four female coauthors have written exactly one paper with me, and two of those papers (constituting three of the four coauthors) I had only a minor contribution. Egads.
Interesting, I’ve been working with more women lately (currently an ecology post-doc) so I expected to have higher ratios than I ended up with:
Co-authorship: 0.51 (counting individual citations) and 0.56 (counting individual people)
PhD Committee: 0 (There were exactly 0 female faculty in my department during the first 3 years of my PhD, so I did not have much choice here)
Supervisors (post-doc plus pre-PhD field jobs & research non-profit experience): 0.25
On the other hand, I had an equal number of male and female field assistants during my PhD. My colleagues at the avian research non-profit organization I worked at were also about 50/50 (though the senior folks were all male), while 75% or more of the interns we hired were female. My experience pretty much echoes the larger trends: I’ve worked with lots of women at lower levels, but mostly men at the professor/senior scientist level.
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Hmmm, I seem to be bucking the trend. I’m a female ecology post-doc who has never cared if I work with men or women. However, my numbers are much better than typical.
Advisors: 0.67 (0.50 for additional committee members)
Collaborators: 1.14 (0.93 by citations)
Field & lab techs: 1.00
Add in a few sole-authored publications and I guess I’m doing my bit to change the numbers.
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Reblogged this on confessions of a worried teacher and commented:
Good point on how we all can contribute to reproducing gender gaps:
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