Monday, August 11, 2014

"In Science, It Matters That Women Come Last"

Emma Pierson has written a very interesting article titled In Science, It Matters That Women Come Last. The article is filled with data and analysis (and graphs!) about gender trends in publishing in some subfields of the physical sciences and math. She examined numbers of papers and authorship order for male and female authors using 23 years of papers from arXiv.

If you read the article, I recommend that you read it all the way through, including footnotes. As I read it I had some questions such as, "What about fields in which authorship is alphabetical?". These questions are answered. You may or may not agree with the methods but these issues were anticipated and the analysis considers the effects of different authorship-order practices in different fields.

There are many fascinating aspects of this dataset and Pierson's discussion of the data. One that particularly interested me is this:
.. I found evidence that women tend to work together. If a paper has one female author, the other authors on the paper are 35 percent more likely to be female given the share of female authors in the field overall.
It is possible that this is largely the result of female PIs tending to advise/hire more female students and postdocs (Pierson mentions a study that seems to show this). I wonder also about the tendency of women scientists to collaborate as peers and how data/trends related to such collaborations will change with time.

I see changes in my peer-collaborations with time in my own career. For the first 2+ decades, my female coauthors were my students and postdocs, with a few isolated exceptions of female-peer coauthors. More recently (the last few years in particular), I have had many female-peer coauthors. It has become routine. I thought this was because there were simply more women in my field now -- in fact, I am sure that is part of the explanation -- but now I wonder if there is more to it. I guess we'd need to know more about how the authorship dataset breaks down by advisee vs. peer coauthors to understand what it means.

What do you think this particular result (that 'women tend to work together') means, either for you or in your particular sub/field?



11 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you read the book "The myth of male power" by dr. Warren Farrell, you will discover that reality is very different from your feminist ideology that brings you to paint women as victims.

Walt Lessun said...

Dr. Farrell's reality is substantially different from the reality the rest of us live in.

Anonymous said...

Early in my career, my female co-authors were my students. Now, like you, I have co-PIs who are female in addition to my students.

I think the biggest reason is that I choose to work with people I can trust, who will treat me with respect, and these people tend to be women. This job is difficult enough to not have to deal with bullies, and ego maniacs. I just want to answer the scientific questions and I want to work with people who have similar desires, and I find that the easiest people to work with - except for a few damaged individuals - are other women.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I didn't feel painted like a victim at all...

As for the actual question, as a student I had a male and a female advisor, as a post-doc only a male advisor, so I can't draw much from that. My lab as a PI is definitely enriched for women - this is hard for me to decide if it's because I'm a woman or because I have a focus in ovarian cancer, which may be of greater interest to women more than men (or not). I can say that for collaboration, I have found it difficult to collaborate with older men - had one tell me it was because he didn't work with junior people until they were established (fine), then he turned around and wrote a major grant with a man more junior than me (in years, funding, and publications). So, I can't say if it's me or my gender, but I have found collaborating with women to be more positive.

Phillip Helbig said...

What do you think this particular result (that 'women tend to work together') means, either for you or in your particular sub/field?

If it were "men tend to work together", people would be screaming for the death of the patriarchy.

Anonymous said...

Philip - ?? what do you mean? Men already work together. That is one of the reasons why women must work together. We get pushed out of male dominated groups. Sometimes by outright blatant sexism, but usually through subtle ways that we are ignored, talked over, and otherwise pushed to the side. Usually, I think the men are not doing this consciously, (at least some are not), but this is how the world is.

christie said...

ug, trolls...

I have formed close friendships with a few other women who are career-peers, which have probably contributed to prolonging our research collaboration relationships. I have similar relationships with male friend/colleagues (is there a portmanteau for that? palaborators?)
but I think I have long-term collaborations with more women than my male collaborators do. Obviously these relationships are quite personal and social compatibility is a huge factor in collaborator choice.

Anonymous said...

While I've certainly experienced a lot of discrimination and harassment from male colleagues, most of the few female ones have been very vicious and judgmental. I have a good set now that is mostly male.

I did read the article and was fascinated though. I suspect at a place with more than just a handful of women, I would have more female coauthors.

Anonymous said...

Women are ~ 50% less likely to earn Tenure even with the same productivity as men.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/18/study-raises-questions-about-why-women-are-less-likely-men-earn-tenure-research

Anonymous said...

I am a mid-career scientist, Associate Prof level. I definitely tend to collaborate with women more than men, and I think the reason was stated above. I want to work with people that I can trust, and who will treat me with respect - and those tend to be women. All of the people that have treated me really badly within my department were men ( very self-centered, and egoistic men at that). So there is a tendency to avoid, as a self-defense mechanism.

Female Computer Scientist said...

Anon @11:36, it's interesting that your male colleague chose a younger male colleague to collaborate with over you. I've also had this happen, and it's puzzled me.

In contrast to Anon@10:17, I've had wonderful collaborations with women. Male colleagues less so.