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Friday, May 9, 2014

Women Lag Men in Publications, Citations -- And What To Do About It

Chronicle Vitae:  Are You Reading Enough Academic Women?, by Kelly J. Baker:

In January, writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh created a collection of bookmarks, each of them featuring one of her favorite female novelists or nonfiction writers, and she mailed them out to friends. The bookmarks encouraged people to make 2014 “The Year of Reading Women.”

Women read more than men, yet male authors still dominate literary journals. In an annual count, VIDA draws attention to gender inequality in publishing with pie charts demonstrating how major literary magazines are often dominated by male bylines, reviewers, and authors reviewed. ...

After her project drew attention online, she created the Twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 (now she’s got her own account: @ReadWomen2014) and began tweeting the names of more than 250 authors who had appeared on the back of her bookmarks. The hashtag quickly became popular, not only as a way to catalog women writers and their achievements, but also as a rallying cry. Walsh suggested doing a “VIDA count on your own bookshelf” to see if there are imbalances. “While female writers may encounter similar obstacles,” she said, “their work is as diverse as men’s: There is a book by a woman for every kind of reader.” ...

How does gender affect who does what kinds of scholarship? Is there a gender gap in academic publishing? What would a VIDA count of scholarship show us? Luckily, some recent studies and news reports have explored the impact of gender on publishing.

While gender bias in academia is widely discussed, it is not always easily documented. That’s why B.F. Walter, Daniel Maliniak, and Ryan Powers collected data to demonstrate how it plays out in a key metric of academic life: citations. Their study focused on 12 leading journals in international relations, examining 3,000 articles published between 1980 and 2006. The researchers analyzed “citation counts” because, Walter notes, “they are increasingly used as a key measure of a scholar’s performance and impact”—the currency of influence and prestige, as well as factors in hiring and promotion.

After controlling for factors including venue, methodology, subject, the author’s institution, and the significance of the publication, Walter and her colleagues discovered that gender mattered even when all other factors were held constant. In fact, gender was one of the best predictors of whether an article would be cited or not. Walter writes that women authors received “0.7 cites for every 1 cite that a male author would receive.” Untenured women were the least likely to be cited.

While that study was limited to one field, its findings were similar to those of another one conducted by the Bergstrom Lab at the University of Washington. The lab’s Eigenfactor project seeks to map the currents of scientific knowledge in publishing by using JSTOR articles to create a large network of citations. Its gender study was the result of Jennifer Jacquet’s suggestion to see what would happen if the team analyzed the JSTOR data through the filter of gender.

What followed was the largest analysis we have of academic articles by gender. The study examined 1.8 million scholarly articles, from 1665 (!) to 2011. It found that women accounted for just 21.9 percent of authorships and 17 percent of single-authored papers. Those rates jump to 27.2 percent and 26 percent—slightly more respectable numbers, but still nothing to write home about—if you shorten the time frame to 1990 through 2012. Oh, and if an article had multiple authors, less than 20 percent of those listed first were women. (To see the breakdown of various disciplines, click here.)

Overall, the results of Eigenfactor’s gender project demonstrated that the percentage of female authors is less than the proportion of women in the full-time ranks of the academy.

Chronicle of Higher Education, Women as Academic Authors, 1665-2010:

Women’s presence in higher education has increased, but as authors of scholarly papers—keys to career success—their publishing patterns differ from those of men. Explore nearly 1,800 fields and subfields, across four centuries, to see which areas have the most female authors and which have the fewest, in this exclusive Chronicle report


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Chronicle Vitae:  Are You Reading Enough Academic Women?, by Kelly J. Baker:

So what can we do to shrink it? The researchers themselves have a couple of smart ideas. Walter suggests that authors should use only their last names and first initials when they submit their work to journals, which would help eliminate implicit bias against female scholars. Additionally, she notes that female authors are less likely to cite our own work than that of male authors. Women, then, should starting citing ourselves.

Maliniak and Powers, meanwhile, encourage faculty to make a point to achieve a gender balance in both their bibliographies and syllabi. That way, they argue, professors can avoid passing the the gender gap onto our students. These suggestions bring thoughtful consideration to how we construct our bodies of knowledge and how we might work against forms of bias—unconscious or conscious—to embrace more perspectives and create more well-rounded scholarship.

I’ve got one more suggestion. Academics, here’s my modest plea. How about we mimic Walsh’s #readwomen2014 by reading more women academics for the rest of 2014? Set your own time frame and read only scholarship by women. Do a VIDA count of your bookshelves. How might including more work from female academics change your bibliographies and syllabi? If you have trouble finding research by women scholars, what might that tell you about your field?

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I wonder if some of this doesn't have to do with implicit bias. Download counts, for example, tend to have categories like securities law, bankruptcy, tax etc. with all of "women and family studies," or some such, reduced to one category. If the categories were (say) Talmud, Chumash, Rashi and "secular knowledge," Jews would probably have an advantage, too.

Posted by: michael livingston | May 9, 2014 4:27:54 AM

I'm reminded of an announcement at halftime at an SEC football game. The sell-out crowd, some of whom had paid in the thousands for tickets, was encouraged to later attend a (Title IX) women's soccer match. Admission to the women's event was free, and free candy would be passed out. If the product is good, people will buy it without attempts to coerce or bribe them. If scholarly papers are good, people will use them. Artificially gaming the numbers with multiple clicks and marketing won't make the papers better.

Posted by: Woody | May 9, 2014 8:07:07 AM

Unless you assume or conclude that the one-fifth to one-quarter of articles published by women represents bias on the part of those making the publication decision in the first place, the fact that women publish less than men (27% of articles but 26% of citations) would appear to be the key fact in this analysis. I must have missed something but otherwise a 27% to 26% does not indicate bias of any kind. On the other hand, in my experience women academics tend to cite other women academics so perhaps the 26% citation figure represents an inherent bias in the sense that we might look to see if women are over-cited by women and under-cited by male academics. In other words there are many more variables to be considered before we understand what is really going on. Plus, the fact that female assistant professors are cited less than more senior academics who have made a reputation and attracted a following is not surprising. I expect the same to be true for new male academics.

Posted by: David | May 12, 2014 7:55:45 AM