women - women and men (Esther Lui)

#academia: when teamwork doesn’t work for women

On collaborative publishing (between women and men) and gendered (nay, sexist) credit in academia. The piece refers to publishing in economics but the findings could potentially be extrapolated, particularly to traditionally “male” disciplines. From the NYtimes:

Economics remains a stubbornly male-dominated profession, a fact that members of the profession have struggled to understand.

After all, if the marketplace of ideas is meant to ensure that the best ideas thrive, then this imbalance should arise only if men have better ideas than women. That implication infuriates many female economists. Now new evidence suggests that the underrepresentation of women reflects a systemic bias in that marketplace: a failure to give women full credit for collaborative work done with men.

Exhibit A, your honour.

At least that is the conclusion of research by Heather Sarsons, a brilliant young economist currently completing her dissertation at Harvard. And it is a pattern that may explain why women struggle to get ahead in other professions involving teamwork.

Ms. Sarsons compiled data on the publication records of young economists recruited by top universities in the United States over the last 40 years. The career path for economists — as in most academic fields — is largely organized around tenure. It is called “publish or perish,” because once young economists are hired, they have seven years to be either promoted and offered a job for life or fired. Her findings are documented in a working paper, “Gender Differences in Recognition for Group Work,” that has generated a lot of buzz among economists.

While women in the field publish as much as men, they are twice as likely to perish. And this higher rate for women being denied tenure persists even after accounting for differences in tenure rates across universities, the different subfields of economics that women work in, the quality of their publications and other influences that may have changed over time.

And exhibit B.

But Ms. Sarsons discovered one group of female economists who enjoyed the same career success as men: those who work alone. Specifically, she says that “women who solo author everything have roughly the same chance of receiving tenure as a man.” So any gender differences must be because of the differential treatment of men and women who work collaboratively.

Here is where it gets interesting. When an economist writes a paper on her own, there is no question about who deserves the credit. Each additional solo research paper raises the probability of getting tenure by about 8 or 9 percent, she calculated. The career benefit from publishing a solo paper is about the same for women as it is for men.

But unlike women, men also get just as much credit for collaborative research, and there is no statistical difference in the career prospects of authors of individually written papers and those of papers written as part of a research team.

Unfortunately for women, research done with a co-author counts far less. When women write with co-authors, the benefit to their career prospects is much less than half that accorded to men. This really matters, because most economic research is done with co-authors.

The story seems to be that when Janet writes with George, her colleagues infer that George deserves the credit. That might be a reasonable inference if women were more likely to join research collaborations as the junior partner, but in fact Ms. Sarsons finds that they are less likely to do this.

Digging deeper, Ms. Sarsons assessed how credit was attributed for work done in different types of research teams. Men get about the same degree of credit for research with a co-author, whether it is written with other men, other women or both. (The exact numbers vary a little, but in a way that may just reflect statistical noise.)

It couldn’t be more different for women.

© and read the rest: NYtimes
Feat. image: Esther Lui.