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Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists 245

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 @01:52PM (#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 @01:54PM (#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.

  • Misleading title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laxori666 ( 748529 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @02:00PM (#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.
  • WHY!?!?!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kungpaoshizi ( 1660615 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @02:08PM (#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!!!
  • Sick of this crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @02:16PM (#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 T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @02:28PM (#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 SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @02:29PM (#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 []. 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 Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @03:22PM (#44072869)

    People want to find a small biological reason that may cause a fraction of the effect, because once it's found they can dismiss the idea that sexism is a contributor.

  • by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @03:37PM (#44073005)

    Unfortunately, the effort to equally represent women in science usually ends up devaluing the other, more important work that they do... raising a good family. Society has a greater need for mothers than scientists.

    Insofar as your meaning is that "society has a greater need for mothers [and fathers] than scientists", I agree. A single income, two parent home is a better ideal than the whole dual income, farm-the-kid-out-to-daycare situation. I personally don't care if it's a housewife or house husband -- nobody cares about your own kids as much as you do -- or as much as you can if you try.

    I wonder if part of the anger that your post seems to have triggered among mods is that you specifically said that children need mothers. It seems to be a point of strictly enforced dogma in politically correct discourse these days to say that children doesn't really need women in their lives (see the debate surrounding gay marriage). If you say that it's best for a child to have female mother, then you are generally considered a terrible person. At least that's what I've seen. (I'm a terrible person, by the way.)

  • by scot4875 ( 542869 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:52PM (#44073705) Homepage

    As opposed to the people who try to find sexism *everywhere* they look, who are perfectly reasonable, objective individuals.


  • by semi-extrinsic ( 1997002 ) <> on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:50PM (#44074301)
    I have to say, you Americans have a completely retarded system when it comes to maternity leave etc., and I don't just mean what the government decides. My background: I live in Norway, our kid is 14 months now, and I just finished 3 months of paid paternity leave. It's been 3 awesome months.

    What I don't get is: even when you don't have paid maternity/paternity leave (which is your society's fault), why can't you as the man take (20-40%) of the time staying at home (before kindergarden), and then your wife takes the rest? I mean, she has after all carried the baby and given birth to it, so surely she deserves more than 50%? Is your employer really going to deny you a total of (1-3)x3 months of unpaid leave, when seen against your entire working life of 50+ years and all the benefits that come from a closer connection to your children?

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen