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
— The Lab & Field (@thelabandfield) December 12, 2013