The Persistence of Patriarchy in Science

gender disparities

An op-ed in Stat Magazine by Biostats doctoral candidate Emma Thomas relates her surprising findings regarding continued gender disparities in medical journals, and how these findings have manifested in her own experience.

The study, co-authored by Thomas’ advisor Francesca Dominici and collaborators at Elsevier publishing, found that women were about 20% less likely to author invited commentaries than men who had worked in the same field of health research for the same length of time, accumulating the same numbers of publications and citations.  Moreover, the most experienced female scientists were about 40% less likely to author an invited commentary than their male peers.

The findings led Thomas to reflect on the nature of the practice of science, and the idea that scientific ideas and opportunities spread across professional and social networks which can be influenced by same-gender preferences.

The responsibility for addressing this situation lies with everyone, as indifference and inaction by those in positions of privilege are powerful drivers of inequity across not only gender, but also race, and class.  One of the solutions Thomas cites is to breach the confines of our immediate professional circles and consciously seek connections — scientific and otherwise — beyond our comfort zones.  According to Thomas, “those who have historically held positions of privilege carry the greatest responsibility.”