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.


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