Gender bias is inherent in scholarly systems. Men publish at higher rates and receive more peer review invitations than women, while male PhD-educated scientists are more likely than their female counterparts to pursue tenure-track positions in academia. However, as recently reported by Inside Higher Ed, little effort has been spent trying to understand when and how gender bias in publishing originates – until now.
A new study of 1,285 recently-graduated doctoral students from an undisclosed US ‘Big Ten’ institute found that male students submitted, published and first-authored more papers than their female peers. Surprisingly, as well as being observed in male-dominated engineering and physical sciences, these gaps existed in more gender-balanced disciplines and in some potentially more female-dominated fields, such as social sciences and applied health. Preferential faculty support for males, differing career goals and the quality of student–supervisor relationships were all cited as reasons behind the gender gap. Higher levels of research assistantships among males and of teaching roles among females were also potential contributing factors. Interestingly, this study has been backed by doctoral students from Boston University, many of whom believe the same trend exists at their institution.
These data indicate that gender differences in publishing originate early on the academic career ladder. Lead author Sarah Theule Lubienski summarised the findings as “disturbing” and contests claims that the gender gap is closing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The study concludes that research institutions should do more to encourage women to publish, and recommends that further research is carried out to identify the most important forms of gender bias in medical and scientific publishing.