Women In Science Don’t Get The Credit They Deserve
Women in science are less likely to get credit for the work they do, according to a ground-breaking new study.
While the idea that women are less likely to get the plaudits for their work than their male counterparts is well-established, it often relies on the evidence of a handful of well-known examples.
Rosalind Franklin, whose role in discovering the structure of DNA was crucial but was denied authorship of the article announcing the breakthrough, is perhaps the most famous, but the history of science is littered with women overlooked on account of their gender.
But now researchers have put together some data to back up the anecdotal evidence, to prove that these are more than just accidental snubs.
Women who work on a research project are less likely to be named as authors, and less likely to be named on patents, than their male colleagues who worked on the same research, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
The gap was particularly pronounced on what were considered to be “high-impact” research, suggesting that the more important the work, the less likely women were to have their roles acknowledged.
And it is not a gap that can be explained by men being more likely to be in senior positions: at every level, women are less likely to get credit.
“There should never be a gap in credit between men and women. But you really don’t want a gap on the research that has the biggest impact on a scientific field,” said Bruce Weinberg, economics professor at Ohio State University and co-author of the research. “That’s a huge source of concern.”
Researchers at Ohio State cross-referenced administrative data from universities on who worked on particular research projects with patents and articles published in scientific journals, to discover which of those who worked on the projects received credit.
The study covered almost 130,000 scientists working in almost 10,000 teams, from faculty members to undergraduates, at 52 universities and colleges between 2013 and 2106.
This revealed that women who worked on a research project were 13% less likely to be named as authors in related scientific articles compared with their male colleagues.
“Women are not getting credit at the same rates as men on journal articles,” said Enrico Berkes co-author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in economics at Ohio State. “The gap is persistent, and it is strong.”
But this gap was dwarfed by the difference when it came to patents: women were 59% less likely than men to be named on patents related to projects they had both worked on.
Although men are more likely to have senior positions in research teams, the bias against women was evident at early stages of their careers.
While only 15 out of 100 female graduate students were ever named as the author on a document, 21 out of 100 males had that distinction.
And the credit gap between men and women persisted across all scientific disciplines, from ones where women were in a majority, such as healthcare research, to those where women were very much a minority, such as engineering.
“Women are more likely to be in support positions, but they receive less credit relative to men at every level,” added Berkes.
The study’s findings were supplemented by a survey of more than 2,400 scientists, which showed that 43% of women reported being excluded from authorship of a scientific paper they had worked on, compared with 38% of men.
Women were also more likely to report that others underestimated their contributions, and that they had experienced discrimination, stereotyping and bias.
“Being a woman [means] that quite often you contribute in one way or another to science but unless you shout or make a strong point, our contributions are often underestimated,” said one female scientist who took part in the study.
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