Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Gender Gap in Academic Publishing and Citation

There's been a bit of a campaign to "read more women" to counter the bias toward male authors and male by-lines in fiction writing and reviews.  This author extends that to reading women's research for work in Are You Reading Enough Academic Women.

So Walsh’s campaign prompted me to think about gender inequalities that arise in scholarly publishing and citations. How does gender affect who does what kinds of scholarship? Is there a gender gap in academic publishing? What would a VIDA count of scholarship show us? Luckily, some recent studies and news reports have explored the impact of gender on publishing.


While gender bias in academia is widely discussed, it is not always easily documented. That’s why B.F. Walter, Daniel Maliniak, and Ryan Powers collected data to demonstrate how it plays out in a key metric of academic life: citations. Their study focused on 12 leading journals in international relations, examining 3,000 articles published between 1980 and 2006. The researchers analyzed “citation counts” because, Walter notes, “they are increasingly used as a key measure of a scholar’s performance and impact”—the currency of influence and prestige, as well as factors in hiring and promotion.


After controlling for factors including venue, methodology, subject, the author’s institution, and the significance of the publication, Walter and her colleagues discovered that gender mattered even when all other factors were held constant. In fact, gender was one of the best predictors of whether an article would be cited or not. Walter writes that women authors received “0.7 cites for every 1 cite that a male author would receive.” Untenured women were the least likely to be cited.

Another study,

examined 1.8 million scholarly articles, from 1665 (!) to 2011. It found that women accounted for just 21.9 percent of authorships and 17 percent of single-authored papers. Those rates jump to 27.2 percent and 26 percent—slightly more respectable numbers, but still nothing to write home about—if you shorten the time frame to 1990 through 2012. Oh, and if an article had multiple authors, less than 20 percent of those listed first were women. 


Overall, the results of Eigenfactor’s gender project demonstrated that the percentage of female authors is less than the proportion of women in the full-time ranks of the academy. The study shows that women are making small gains in academic publishing, but the results are far from heartening.

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