Female Under-Representation in Female-Rich Discipline

A continuation on this very interesting topic from last week.

Isbell LA, Young TP, Harcourt AH (2012) Stag Parties Linger: Continued Gender Bias in a Female-Rich Scientific Discipline.  PLoS ONE 7(11): e49682. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049682

Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%). … The bias is surprising given that women are the numerical majority in primatology and have achieved substantial peer recognition in this discipline.


An homophily explanation is entertained:

Homophily is preferential interaction with others who have similar attitudes, beliefs, or personal characteristics… Inviting those of the same gender or those with whom one already has a relationship may improve the organizer’s efficiency in the task. … Women may be less homophilic than men in practice because men are still highly influential in academic departments and women tend to gain greater professional success when they have instrumental relationships with or sponsorships from men.

 The Tree of Life blog discusses this paper as well, with read-worthy related posts.


Nature evaluates its own gender bias

In this week’s Nature we learn the following:

54% of its editors and reporters are women.

14% of Nature’s referees who assessed submitted manuscripts in 2011 were women.

18% of the researchers profiled by journalists in 2011 and so far in 2012 were women.

These stats are discussed in light of (blamed on?) contributing external factors:  fewer women in some fields, especially in upper echelons, and that “women typically spend more time than men as homemakers… reducing the time available for journal contributions.


The growing appreciation of unconscious gender bias by both men and women in science is also cited.

We therefore believe that there is a need for every editor to work through a conscious loop before proceeding with commissioning: to ask themselves, “Who are the five women I could ask?”

A good first step…but far enough?

Work & Life in Singapore in this week’s Science

Two articles discuss the exciting professional and personal opportunities available for Westerners in Singapore and across Asia:

Flocking to Asia for a Shot at Greatness

“Academics from around the world are taking jobs in Hong Kong, Singapore, and elsewhere in East Asia, lured by generous budgets and a welcome sign for foreigners.”

A Life Outside Work

“Outstanding job opportunities in Hong Kong and Singapore may be the prime draw for globe-trotting academics. But their families, their interests, and their social lives are also important considerations.”