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Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the long-way-yet-to-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the University of Sheffield have found that high quality science by female academics is underrepresented in comparison to that of their male counterparts. The researchers analyzed the genders of invited speakers at the most prestigious gatherings of evolutionary biologists in Europe — six biannual congresses of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) and found that male speakers outnumbered women. Even in comparison to the numbers of women and men among world class scientists – from the world top ranked institutions for life sciences, and authors in the top-tier journals Nature and Science - women were still underrepresented among invited speakers."
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Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists

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  • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Friday June 21, 2013 @12:52PM (#44071985) Journal

    The researchers also found that women were underrepresented at the 2011 congress because men accepted invitations more often than women.

    So it's not an ingrained sexism on the behalf of the congress, but according to the next quote based on biological differences:

    The most demanding phase of a career in Biology, when it is important to communicate one’s findings, and to build networks with other scientists, coincides with the age at which women's fertility starts to decline, meaning it is their last chance to have a family - unlike men.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Friday June 21, 2013 @12:54PM (#44072025) Journal

      Yes, it has been shown that women tend to spend more time having and raising children rather than developing expertise in a career. It has also been found that Women who don't follow that biological plan typically do better than men it is just much more rare.

      • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:04PM (#44072155) Journal
        I'm assuming (hoping) that your post was sarcastic in nature. My point was that the summary doesn't appear to match the article. The summary implies that less women are invited due to sexism, the article indicates that less women accept the invites and then provides a theory of why that's the case.
        • by Bigbutt (65939) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:09PM (#44072217) Homepage Journal

          Actually it does in part. The first part says women are underrepresented in the recent shows. The second part that you quoted said that they _also_ found that in previous years women accepted less invitations than men.

          I'd want to correlate it to something more along the lines the folks making the invitations looked at the previous accepts and declines or no answers, and declined to invite them again. So less women were invited this year because less women accepted in previous years.

          Then they're trying to figure out why women didn't accept previously and theorized it was due to women wanting to have babies before it's too late.

          Or at least that's how I read it.

          [John]

      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:05PM (#44072165) Homepage Journal

        Yes, it has been shown that women tend to spend more time having and raising children rather than developing expertise in a career. It has also been found that Women who don't follow that biological plan typically do better than men it is just much more rare.

        Over one third of women (in the US at least) never have a single child, so the population is small but not what I would call "Rare".

      • It has also been found that Women who don't follow that biological plan typically do better than men it is just much more rare.

        Well perhaps that is because the women in that particular group have an above average career drive, and are being compared to all men, not just those who share the same drive.

      • Yes, it has been shown that women tend to spend more time having and raising children rather than developing expertise in a career. It has also been found that Women who don't follow that biological plan typically do better than men it is just much more rare.

        That's not correct - multiple studies have found that men are offered higher salaries than women for the exact same job fresh out of school, while childbearing isn't even yet a gleam in their eyes. Rather, like yourself, employers assume that women will spend more time having and raising children, and therefore don't make equal offers to them initially, believing that they'd waste money training them. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy, where couples who want to have children will look at the incomes

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21, 2013 @12:54PM (#44072033)

      In other words, the women themselves are fucking up their own chances of peer exposure. No wait, that came out wrong.

      In other words, the women are exposing themselves to their husband instead of their peers. No wait, that came out wrong too.

      Ah, fuck it.

      • by durrr (1316311)

        The title says the exposure is low, not that it doesn't happen. So clearly, they need to hire a professional photographer to ensure it all comes out well exposed to prevent this waste of assets of biology.

        • by nbauman (624611)

          So clearly, they need to hire a professional photographer to ensure it all comes out well exposed to prevent this waste of assets of biology.

          A lot of papers have a small photo of the researcher. I've noticed a trend for women scientists, especially younger women, to use increasingly more flirtatious photos.

          I'm not complaining. It makes it easier to get through the literature. What more could you ask for -- a beautiful protein model and a beautiful woman.

          I first noticed this when I looked up a paper by a noted influenza researcher. She was a lot younger than I expected. Her picture showed quite a bit of cleavage. Let's just say she was advertisin

          • by lgw (121541)

            I've noticed this effect, but much more strongly, in the linkedin pictures for Russian developers. It's so noticeable that it makes one wonder what's really going on in those dev shops!

          • by shaitand (626655)
            Good? Women haven't been respected in the past. Now women are gaining respect but both men and women tend to respect women and men who are successful pursuing typically masculine goals. It should be possible for women to be feminine and pursue feminine goals and be equally respected to men.

            The sexism in our society now comes from both genders and it is the attitude that roles which are about being aggressive, power centric, and domineering are more important and valuable than those focused on relationships,
      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        Huh huh huh, you said "came".
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      You are assuming that children and fertility are a women-only issue. Actually most men seem to want children and all of them need children to create the next generation and keep society viable. Expecting women to take the entire burden is unfair.

      It is a hard problem to solve. Part of it is having better child care so women can attend events or carry on working. Part of it is accepting women taking a break in their careers with no stigma attached, and having no issue with them being older by the time they re

      • by ranton (36917)

        You are assuming that children and fertility are a women-only issue. Actually most men seem to want children and all of them need children to create the next generation and keep society viable. Expecting women to take the entire burden is unfair.

        I agree with the rest of your post, but saying that women are taking on the entire burden of childcare is dead wrong. That is unfortunately the case in most families where both parents work full time, but when a mother decides to put her career on hold to raise children both the man and woman suffer financially. The man is the required to be the sole breadwinner, which increases stress and often hurts career advancement because risks are harder to take. Both sides are risking their financial well being if a

    • You tell Universities that they will lose x% of their funding until y% of their Biology faculty consists of female professors with 2.1 children, and you'll see just how quickly those biological difference simply melt away.

    • by pepty (1976012)
      FT(research)A:

      Considering all invited speakers (including declined invitations), 23% were women. This was lower than the baseline sex ratios of early-mid career stage scientists, but was similar to senior scientists and authors that have published in high-impact journals.

      Speakers are invited to give a talk if they are prominent in their field, i.e., senior and/or published in high impact journals. What about the rest of the participants?

      it is encouraging that the overall sex ratio of scientists presenting their work at the 2011 ESEB congress was nearly equal. Moreover, there was no strong deviation from this overall sex ratio compared to presenters of both poster categories and regular talks.

      Perhaps a solution would be for organizations that promote women in science through grants and awards to increase the portions set aside for travel expenses?

  • Not too shocking. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deego (587575) on Friday June 21, 2013 @12:54PM (#44072027)

    While I'm glad they did their proper, academic statistical research with p-values and all that, the outcome isn't that shocking from a layman's perspective. Nor does it mean that men are better, in general.

    That is, my point is that men, in general, tend to have a larger diversity - a wider distribution - than women do, in almost any area of skill. That is why most criminals are men, for example. And, that is why most Nobel prize winners have been men, as well.

    (Of course, not discounting that sexism could play some part as well.)

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      This is probably one of the few places where the correlation is not causation meme isn't total moonbat idiocy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Almost nothing in this comment makes any sense. What is a 'wider distribution'? You mean men are more versatile than women, more random, more prone to doing things, what?

      Anytime I hear the phrase 'men are' or 'women are' I know the stupid isn't far behind, because making generalisations about the personalities and proclivities of three and a half billion people from an enormous variety of different backgrounds, cultures, and educational levels is not possible.

      • Re:Not too shocking. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Antipater (2053064) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:19PM (#44072307)
        If I understood GP properly, he was saying that for a given skill, while the mean level of ability may be the same between genders, the variance among men will generally be higher. There will be both more genius-level men and more retarded-level men, while women will generally be more concentrated around the mean. It's a point I've heard a couple times before, never with a cited source.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          It's nonsense, like the claim that there is more variance among Caucasians than black Africans or Orientals, explaining why most modern geniuses are white. It's all down to circumstance, not genetics or gender.

        • It's fairly obvious, actually. Most traits with a gender component show a wider variance in men than women because men have only one X chromosome, while women have 2, which end up 'averaging' (broadly). This is advantageous genetically as well - if all males were the same, there would be little to distinguish them for sexual competition reasons.

          Oh, and since you asked and we're talking about intelligence, source:

          Some studies have identified the degree of IQ variance as a difference between males and females

      • by T.E.D. (34228) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:28PM (#44072409)

        What is a 'wider distribution'? You mean men are more versatile than women, more random, more prone to doing things, what?

        I've heard this theory elaborated before (by a female physicist btw). Supposedly, if you look at physical things like height or weight distributions, you'll find much more variance amongst male human beings than you will with females. In other words, if you found the 100 people in the world with the highest BMI and the lowest BMI, a preponderance of both groups will be men.

        The theory is, if you could apply the same measurements to more subjective things like "intelligence", you would find the same things: both the 100 (or 1000 or whatever) dumbest and the 100 smartest people in the world will be mostly men.

        I'll go on record as saying I'm not sure I buy this logic at all, but perhaps that's just because I'm male and I heard it from a female first. ;-)

        • by lgw (121541)

          This has been studied with IQ as well - the centers of the curves are the same for men and women (same average IQ) but the peak is higher for women, and the tail is longer for men. And yes, everyone has already made that joke - and that one too.

    • by Etherwalk (681268)

      That is, my point is that men, in general, tend to have a larger diversity - a wider distribution - than women do, in almost any area of skill.

      This is impossible to parse. I am guessing you mean a wider distribution of skill level in any area of skill? As in women are more clustered around certain norms of achievement and men tend to be more divergent in both good and bad ways?

      I feel like I've heard that's true for some areas (e.g. math), but I'd be very hesitant to draw that kind of across-the-board statement without massive amounts of data. Are you sure men aren't just more bombastic, both when idiots and when geniuses, so it's more obvious t

      • by boristdog (133725)

        I think men are raised to take more risks, so this leads to a lot more wild successes as well as wild failures.

        Not nearly as many women use the phrase: "Hold my beer and watch this."

      • I feel like I've heard that's true for some areas (e.g. math), but I'd be very hesitant to draw that kind of across-the-board statement without massive amounts of data.

        Well, most of this theory comes out of psychological research [wikipedia.org], particularly IQ tests and other general intelligence tests.

        It isn't so much that we have across-the-board data for lots of fields/skills/areas, as much as we have a number of studies on supposed tests of "general intelligence," which show a wider variance for men compared to women.

        If you believe in the assumption that IQ tests are actually relevant to performance in a wider variety of areas, then it would seem reasonable to conclude that suc

    • Men may, in general, *express* a larger diversity. The question of whether this is because of grater actually diversity in men, greater suppression of non-conforming behavior in women, or something else is the ENTIRE FUCKING POINT.

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      That is why most criminals are men, for example.

      maybe women are just congenitally sneakier

  • Misleading title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laxori666 (748529) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:00PM (#44072099) Homepage
    The title makes it sound like they took excellent papers authored by men, and excellent papers of equivalent quality authored by women, and found that those papers authored by women, though they were of the same quality, did not have as much exposure. This would indeed be an interesting finding and would point to sexism in the sciences, as it would show that the same product (paper of a certain quality) was being treated differently solely because of the sex of the author. This of course assuming the measure of equivalent quality was a good one.

    However it seems like all they did is "analyze" (read: count) the number of male and female speakers and found that there were less female speakers. From this they say women are "underrepresented". Hardly a sound conclusion. What if 20% of all scientists are women, and 80% are men? Then a fair (neither over- nor under-) representation would be 20% female speakers and 80% male speakers. Then you'd have to go see the reasons why there are less women scientists than male scientists, which can be many. The pregnancy thing mentioned in the article is likely a big one, at least.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Antipater (2053064)

      Even in comparison to the numbers of women and men among world class scientists – from the world top ranked institutions for life sciences, and authors in the top-tier journals Nature and Science - women were still underrepresented among invited speakers."

      It's right there in the freaking summary...

      • by Laxori666 (748529)
        Reading comprehension fail. I thought that sentence was saying that there were also less women than men among world-class scientists, not that they took the ratio into account.

        This got me to actually looking through the paper [wiley.com]. I concluded that: I wish they would make the raw data available. It would be easier to make sense of than long sentences with numbers strewn in. But yes it seems they accounted for this.

        Reading the paper, it seems that this underrepresentation was only out of the invited speakers,
    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:29PM (#44072429)

      If you see fewer women than men presenting at conferences, there could be many reasons for that. For example, is the ratio of women to men presenting at top conferences different from the ratio of women to men receiving doctoral degrees from top universities?

      There could be filtering mechanisms in place at many stages in an academic career that favor one gender over another. In chronological order: admission to undergraduate degree program, graduation from undergraduate programs, admission to graduate degree program, awarding of research funding to graduate students, primary authorship of papers, acceptance of papers, presentation of papers, awarding of graduate degrees, postdoctoral fellowships, awarding of research grants, tenure-track faculty appointments, awarding of tenure, etc., etc.

      So these authors picked one of those stages out of the approximate middle of the professional chain I just outlined and found the number of women is less than the number of men. I could have guessed that. The researchers say only "there are many potential contributing factors," which is not much of a causal explanation.

      I am beginning to understand why some men get a bit defensive when headlines like this appear. It sounds like more than a hint of accusation, yet without enough evidence to actually accuse anyone with. So let's not forget how frustrating the lack of causal explanation can be to men. (Disclaimer: I am a man.)

      If you're actually interested in the causes and effects of gender imbalance in academe, I would recommend the MIT Gender Equity Project [mit.edu]. Its methodology was more comprehensive than just counting Y chromosomes in one sub-field.

      I don't really blame the biologists who did this study for failing to pin down the root cause of the gender imbalance they saw. If the root cause were easy to find, academics would either have fixed it (if inequity exists) or stopped caring (if the reason is simply fewer girls than boys want to study science). Even the MIT study concluded this is a complex issue.

      • by Laxori666 (748529)
        After I read [slashdot.org] the paper [wiley.com], the headline seems even more misleading. The headline is "Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists". However, the paper actually says that out of 1022 participants to a symposium they studied, only the "invited speakers" category of 73 participants showed an under-representation. The other 949 participants were of a fair ratio. Further, the ratio of *initially invited* speakers was also fair. It only became an under-representation because 50% of the initia
        • by SirGarlon (845873)
          So there is some interesting prejudice at play here, in people who wrote the headline and people who read the headline jumping to conclusions that the study doesn't remotely advocate or support.
    • by nbauman (624611)

      There was a study in Science of sex discrimination in Berkeley, in which researchers found that the graduate departments overall discriminated against admitting women. Then they refined the study to find out which specific departments were discriminating more -- and none of them were.

      It turned out to be a now-classic example of Simpson's paradox in statistics. The engineering departments had specific requirements, engineering graduates knew whether they met those requirements, only a few students met them,

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        There was a study in Science of sex discrimination in Berkeley, in which researchers found that the graduate departments overall discriminated against admitting women. Then they refined the study to find out which specific departments were discriminating more -- and none of them were. It turned out to be a now-classic example of Simpson's paradox in statistics.

        No, sounds like the now typical politically correct use of simple statistics to prove whatever you want. If "agency X" doesn't have equal numbers of male and female Y, then agency X is discriminating against women. It doesn't matter why the numbers aren't the same. (And you can include cases when the numbers of men and women are a ratio dependent upon the percentages in the total.)

        This is a typical Title 9 analysis. If School A has 40% female attendance, then if athletics doesn't have 40% participation by

  • by Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:00PM (#44072107)

    If only female scientists would tell us their findings instead of expecting us to read their minds.

  • the smart women who aren't getting the credit they deserve!

    What? You thought this was an overlord joke?

  • WHY!?!?!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kungpaoshizi (1660615) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:08PM (#44072187)
    Why is everyone and everything focusing on GENDER?! Gender makes NO DIFFERENCE!!! Even color or race make no difference!! STUPIDITY comes in all colors and genders!!!
    • Gender makes no difference? What the hell am I lusting after then?
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      Why is everyone and everything focusing on GENDER?! Gender makes NO DIFFERENCE!!! Even color or race make no difference!! STUPIDITY comes in all colors and genders!!!

      Wealth.

      Wealthy, secure people deliberately seek sources of anxiety and conflict. A human is denied sufficient angst it will create more. There are no invaders or starvation or plagues or inquisitions to deal with among the Eloi of the west; actual problems are basically solved, so we invent fake problems to fill the void.

  • I have a dream, that one day, scientists will be judged on the content of their science rather than by the gametes they possess.
  • Sick of this crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:16PM (#44072275) Homepage

    Look. As long as there is nothing in a person's way (and this is already the case by law) these kinds of studies need to be abandoned. The fact is, there are FAR fewer female garbage truck drivers than male. Also, far fewer female auto mechanics. Are they being disciminated against there too? Or is it more likely they don't have an interest. And if it is lack of interest, look to that research. The more we understand our differences, the better off we will be.

    • by AdamHaun (43173)

      Also, far fewer female auto mechanics. Are they being disciminated against there too?

      Just an anecdote, but...

      When I was in college I did a co-op at an automotive company. One of the other co-ops was talking about an auto repair shop (I think he worked there for a while?), and how its quality started dropping. He concluded the story with "...and then they put a woman in the shop!", clearly implying that this was the last straw. This was met with general laughter and agreement from the other co-ops.

      Just because it's not broadcast from the rooftops doesn't mean it isn't there. A lot of this st

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It's not always lack of interest. Maybe the lack of interest is a part of the problem but it's not the whole of the problem. And if lack of interest is the problem then maybe that should be fixed as well.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      The fact is, there are FAR fewer female garbage truck drivers than male. Also, far fewer female auto mechanics. Are they being disciminated against there too?

      Yes. However, I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say it is discrimination, that implies deliberate bias. Society, circumstance, history and a whole number of factors are at work.

      Or is it more likely they don't have an interest.

      I doubt many men have much interest in being garbage truck drivers. I see no reason why men would find that job more desirable than women.

      As for being a car mechanic, it is true that cars, being somewhat powerful machines, are of more interest to men because of natural masculinity. Being a car mechanic has little to do with that thoug

  • has to say about this.
  • Well, getting a free OB/GYN or urological/andrological exam can never hurt.
  • by Cassini2 (956052) on Friday June 21, 2013 @01:41PM (#44072519)

    With a high-stakes career in academics, where one accusation could cause years of grief, the rule is that you never do anything with any university-connected female that could ever be misinterpreted as sexual.

    You do not ask females to go out to dinner to discuss their research. You do not invite (pester) females to visit your university, repeatedly. You do not discuss an abstruse academic point in a bar until late. You do not go to the golf course with a female co-worker (married or unmarried). You do nothing that could ever be misinterpreted, which often means you do nothing at all. This applies even if you are at a conference where the only opportunity to discuss things is late at night, or over dinner, or in a hotel room, or in a bar.

    On the other hand, with a male colleague, you find a common social activity and bond.

    Over the course of 15 years, subtle effects like this make a huge difference in the quality of social relationships formed between researchers in a field. Good social relationships open the doors that make good professor's famous.

    • by Bigbutt (65939)

      That's actually a good point. Guys do have to be especially careful when interacting with women in the workplace or in any working relationship. I can see it being difficult to be as persistent with a woman, or as social, as with guys.

      At work, I've had the guys over several times to play guitars and drums together (one bass (plays drums too), one drummer, and three guitarists (us three are novices at guitar all taking lessons)). I had convinced a woman in our department to take guitar lessons after I'd star

    • You do not discuss an abstruse academic point in a bar until late.

      . . . if you do . . . you wake up the next morning as a permanent guest at the Ecuadorean Embassy!

      On the other hand, with a male colleague, you find a common social activity and bond.

      Yes, those female academics tend to talk on endlessly, fawning over ponies, shoes and Justin Bieber . . .

      Good social relationships open the doors that make good professor's famous.

      So male academics form "Old Boys' Networks". Actually, I would expect females academics to do the same, and form "Old Girls' Networks". That should even things out again.

      But then again, just look at the Slashdot community. We don't accept or invite posts from female biologists either . . .

    • by PPH (736903)

      Given the numbers from Kinsey's research, how are you so sure of the motives of the guys that want to hang out with you late at the bar to 'talk shop'?

    • by Minwee (522556)

      Good social relationships open the doors that make good professor's famous.

      The good professor's famous what?

    • by bitt3n (941736)
      I agree with this wholeheartedly. The other night at a conference on advances in quantum physics, I was discussing what in my opinion are certain obvious inconsistencies in string theory with a colleague of mine whilst we sat at the bar in the basement of Adam & Adam, a notorious local establishment. Anyone who saw us book time in the Pit of Medieval Ecstasy, or watched us rub one another down with oil and then engage in hours of impassioned coitus before a crowd of cheering voyeurs, might have come to
  • This research was done by a man otherwise we would not be hearing about it.

  • I run an international conference in a relatively small field, that is, one with only a few thousand researchers all told. We do pretty well at gender balance in our invited speakers, but it is MUCH HARDER to invite qualified female speakers than male ones.

    Why?

    Because there are fewer of them, so they are in higher demand, since all of the conference organizers want them to speak. Our conference typically has about a 90% acceptance rate for our invitations, for male speakers. For female speakers, it's clo

    • The whole idea of "underrepresentation" needs to go. Equal opportunity is all that's needed. Mandating equal genders at "prestigious" positions is retarding. Should we mandate 50% male and female interior decorators? What about Coal Miners? Sorry, you wanted to be an interior decorator, but we need more women coal miners. Ugh, no. Your international conference is sexist because it vastly over represents females instead of portraying a percentage of male vs females corresponding to the percentages ac

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