In this fickle world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes and gender disparity in tech and science. A raft of studies has seemingly confirmed this disparity; just as many women play games as men, but only men are thought of as gamers, said a recent Pew Research Centre study. Women are less likely to be seen as leaders, and are more commonly perceived as good assistants, another study found. Now, a study of nearly one million engineering papers has found that despite publishing in more prestigious journals, female engineers are getting far less attention than their male colleagues.
Gita Ghiasi and her team at Concordia University, Canada, used data drawn from Web of Science, a huge database of academic publications. Filtering for engineering journals from 2008 to 2013, the team gathered 679,338 articles with one million co-authors, assigning gender using a separate database of male and female first names. The journals selected from this database were then ranked by prestige, using Web of Science’s ‘Impact Factor’.
The research garnered good news and bad news… and some more bad news. Women made up only 20 percent of the authors on the papers — significantly less than the 30 percent rate across all scientific disciplines. It also found, however, that these women were publishing in more prestigious journals on average than their male counterparts — a 2 percent increase in Impact Factor. Despite this, however, women’s papers were cited 3 percent less frequently.
This kind of gendered skew is part of a wider phenomenon in science and tech, something far too complex to be explained away simply. But Ghiasi’s team have a few ideas on how to reduce the gap. Women should collaborate more often, for example.
“Women engineers are complying with the male-dominant engineering scientific system instead of changing its structure,” Ghiasis says.
Research conducted at Emerson College supports this thesis, finding a similar pattern of gender bias in collaboration.