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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research student life

Study reveals gender bias in scientific fields

Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science Cassidy Sugimoto said she was skeptical when approaching a project on gender bias in the field of science.

“I’ve never felt that I’ve had to choose between having a family life or an academic life because of my gender,” Sugimoto said.

She said she was shocked at what she found.

A new study led by Sugimoto and the IU School of Informatics and Computing found that barriers to women in the ranks of science is not an issue of the past.

The team analyzed academic publication patterns relating gender and research and looked at close to 5.5 million research papers with more than 27.8 million authorships.

Women were underrepresented 30 to 70 percent globally in authorship.

Women in dominant author positions received fewer citations than men in the same positions, according to the study.

The study found that for every female-first author on a scientific paper, there were 1.93 male-first authors.

“I was surprised at just how widespread the inequalities were,” Sugimoto said. “I think we have a long way to go in terms of convincing women that this is a positive climate.”

Sugimoto said it is a common argument that women are somehow choosing to be less productive in scientific ranks.

Women are out-matriculating men in college, and there’s parity in entrance to graduate school, she said.

“We lose women along the way,” she said.

However, Sugimoto said there is an increasing disenchantment with academia.

“Women have this perception that academia is not going to be kind to them, whether it’s true or not,” Sugimoto said.

This comes from years of observing their female peers, who do more teaching and administrative service work than men in academia, Sugimoto said.

“This is often seen as the mothering role,” Sugimoto said. “If they see women doing that and they see the burden and the stress they do over time, they may end up thinking, ‘I don’t want that kind of life.’”

This perception is being propagated down the generations, she said.

Any realistic policy would address the historical and local systematic inequalities that contribute to a lack of participation of women in science, Sugimoto said.

“I think if female graduate students saw positive female role models, they would be more likely to search out academic positions,” Sugimoto said. “We lose women as we move through the assistant professor rank and the associate professor rank.”

Follow reporter Sarah Zinn on Twitter @sarah_zinn.

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