According to a groundbreaking new study, women scientists are less likely to be recognized for the work they do.
Although the idea that women are less likely to be applauded for their work than their male counterparts is well established, it is often based on evidence from a handful of well-known examples.
Rosalind Franklin, whose role in discovering the structure of UKTN was crucial but was denied authorship of the paper announcing the breakthrough, is perhaps the most famous, but the history of science is littered with women neglected because of their gender.
But now researchers have gathered data to back up the anecdotal evidence, to prove it’s more than just accidental snubs.
According to a study published in the journal Nature, women who work on a research project are less likely to be named authors and less likely to be named on patents than their male colleagues who have worked on the same research.
The gap was particularly pronounced on what was considered ‘high impact’ research, suggesting that the more important the work, the less likely women were to have their role recognized.
And it’s not a gap that can be explained by the fact that men are more likely to hold leadership positions: at all levels, women are less likely to earn credits.
“There should never be a credit gap between men and women. But you really don’t want a gap on research that has the biggest impact on a scientific field,” said Bruce Weinberg, professor of economics at Ohio State University and co-author of the research. “It’s a huge cause for concern.”
Ohio State researchers matched administrative data from universities on who worked on particular research projects with patents and articles published in scientific journals, to find out which of those who worked on the projects received credit.
The study looked at nearly 130,000 scientists working in nearly 10,000 teams, from faculty members to undergraduate students, at 52 universities and colleges between 2013 and 2106.
This revealed that women who worked on a research project were 13% less likely to be named as authors in related scientific papers compared to their male colleagues.
“Women don’t get the same credit ratings as men on journal articles,” said Enrico Berkes, study co-author and postdoctoral fellow in economics at Ohio State. “The gap is persistent, and it’s strong.”
But that gap was eclipsed by the difference in patents: women were 59% less likely than men to be named on patents related to projects they had both worked on.
Although men are more likely to hold leadership positions in research teams, the bias against women was evident early in their careers.
While only 15 out of 100 female graduate students were named as the author of a paper, 21 out of 100 males had this distinction.
And the credit gap between men and women persisted in all scientific disciplines, from those where women were in the majority, such as health research, to those where women were very much in the minority, such as engineering.
“Women are more likely to be in support positions, but they receive less credit compared to men at all levels,” Berkes added.
The study results were complemented by a survey of more than 2,400 scientists, which showed that 43% of women said they were excluded from authorship of a scientific paper they had worked on, compared to 38% of men.
Women were also more likely to report that others undervalued their contributions and that they had experienced discrimination, stereotyping and prejudice.
“Be a woman [means] that very often you contribute in one way or another to science, but unless you shout or make a strong argument, our contributions are often underestimated, ”said a scientist who participated in the ‘study.