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Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the long-way-yet-to-go dept.

Science 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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How does it compare? (4, Insightful)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44071985)

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.

Re:How does it compare? (4, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#44072025)

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.

Re:How does it compare? (5, Informative)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44072155)

I'm assuming (hoping) that your post was sarcastic in nature. My point was that the summary doesn't appear to match the article. The summary implies that less women are invited due to sexism, the article indicates that less women accept the invites and then provides a theory of why that's the case.

Re:How does it compare? (5, Interesting)

Bigbutt (65939) | about a year ago | (#44072217)

Actually it does in part. The first part says women are underrepresented in the recent shows. The second part that you quoted said that they _also_ found that in previous years women accepted less invitations than men.

I'd want to correlate it to something more along the lines the folks making the invitations looked at the previous accepts and declines or no answers, and declined to invite them again. So less women were invited this year because less women accepted in previous years.

Then they're trying to figure out why women didn't accept previously and theorized it was due to women wanting to have babies before it's too late.

Or at least that's how I read it.

[John]

Re:How does it compare? (0, Flamebait)

Bigbutt (65939) | about a year ago | (#44072231)

Oh, and men not being stay at home dads and thereby not supporting their smart(er) women spouses.

(Gotta have that dig at the men there, you missed that.)

[John]

Re:How does it compare? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072509)

Bottom line, it probably isn't as sexist as it appears, nor is it likely to be as benign as others would claim.

Re:How does it compare? (2, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:How does it compare? (4, Informative)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#44072165)

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.

Over one third of women (in the US at least) never have a single child, so the population is small but not what I would call "Rare".

Re:How does it compare? (2)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about a year ago | (#44072939)

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.

Well perhaps that is because the women in that particular group have an above average career drive, and are being compared to all men, not just those who share the same drive.

Re:How does it compare? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072033)

In other words, the women themselves are fucking up their own chances of peer exposure. No wait, that came out wrong.

In other words, the women are exposing themselves to their husband instead of their peers. No wait, that came out wrong too.

Ah, fuck it.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072215)

In other words, the women themselves are fucking up their own chances of peer exposure. No wait, that came out wrong.

My wife has put her career on hold to stay home with our baby. She isn't doing it because we have to (we can afford day care) or because I made her do it. It's been a lifelong goal of hers since long before we met.

What's really unfair about this is that I'm working extra to pay for all this, yet she can leave me on a whim and I have to compensate her forever for the time she is spending at home.

Re:How does it compare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072295)

You are an idiot. Oh no's the womens gonna steal my money

Re:How does it compare? (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about a year ago | (#44072313)

Well obviously you're sexist and misogynistic, although not quite as much as your wife is.

To be serious for a moment, your 2nd paragraph provided a jarring contrast to the first one.

Re:How does it compare? (3, Interesting)

ranton (36917) | about a year ago | (#44072581)

To be serious for a moment, your 2nd paragraph provided a jarring contrast to the first one.

How is there any contrast at all? In the first paragraph he is saying how he simply stating that he is supporting his wife while she is staying home with their child, but doesn't actually say that he is supportive of that decision. I have had similar conversations with my fiance about not wanting her to stay home with our future kids for financial reasons, and I don't think I am a monster for it (although she would end up getting her way if she feels strongly about it at that time).

And I am not sure why he is jaded enough to even bring up our ridiculous spousal support laws but he is not wrong. Our laws put the child's need far above the parents (not necessarily a bad thing), but that almost always means the primary breadwinner gets the shaft. There is nothing sexist or misogynistic about what he wrote. He just comes off as a very bitter person for even bringing up the topic.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about a year ago | (#44072719)

It seemed to me that in the first paragraph he was approving of the situation, but in the 2nd he wasn't. That's all. It was probably more my inference than anything.

Re: How does it compare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072627)

Dude, if it's been a "life long dream" of hers surely you knew this when u married her. . So don't try to claim its "unfair"... unfair would be if she told u she didn't want children or didn't expect to be a stay at home mom and than foisted that on u after u married her. If u didn't like the options u shouldn't have married her.

Re: How does it compare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072639)

I demand that you knock that off. Right now.

So don't try to claim its "unfair"

It's unfair whether or not he knew. The scales are ridiculously slanted towards one side.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#44072383)

The title says the exposure is low, not that it doesn't happen. So clearly, they need to hire a professional photographer to ensure it all comes out well exposed to prevent this waste of assets of biology.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

nbauman (624611) | about a year ago | (#44072707)

So clearly, they need to hire a professional photographer to ensure it all comes out well exposed to prevent this waste of assets of biology.

A lot of papers have a small photo of the researcher. I've noticed a trend for women scientists, especially younger women, to use increasingly more flirtatious photos.

I'm not complaining. It makes it easier to get through the literature. What more could you ask for -- a beautiful protein model and a beautiful woman.

I first noticed this when I looked up a paper by a noted influenza researcher. She was a lot younger than I expected. Her picture showed quite a bit of cleavage. Let's just say she was advertising her inclusive fitness.

I think there's a paper in it. Do women investigators who show more cleavage get cited more? There was a similar study of women who showed cleavage in their photos in an online dating site.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about a year ago | (#44072943)

Huh huh huh, you said "came".

Re:How does it compare? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44072235)

You are assuming that children and fertility are a women-only issue. Actually most men seem to want children and all of them need children to create the next generation and keep society viable. Expecting women to take the entire burden is unfair.

It is a hard problem to solve. Part of it is having better child care so women can attend events or carry on working. Part of it is accepting women taking a break in their careers with no stigma attached, and having no issue with them being older by the time they reach that point in their careers. Part of it is men being a bit more accommodating and not getting upset when a female scientist wants to work from home or needs more flexible working hours.

Male dominated environments can be extremely demanding in terms of the hours people are expected to put in and the dedication they are expected to show. It harms society as a whole by undervaluing women (our economy could benefit greatly) and making children a more expensive and less attractive proposition, with pressure to ignore them and not participate in their upbringing as much as we should.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072379)

Part of it is having better child care so women can attend events or carry on working. (long litany of other social engineering measures)

Other nations have tried that: it has helped neither the gender pay gap nor the birth rate.

It is a hard problem to solve.

It's easy: if the mother wants to spend more time on their careers, then the father can stay at home and take care of the kids. If the mother can't negotiate this with the father, it doesn't all of a sudden become everybody else's responsibility.

Re:How does it compare? (2)

ranton (36917) | about a year ago | (#44072633)

You are assuming that children and fertility are a women-only issue. Actually most men seem to want children and all of them need children to create the next generation and keep society viable. Expecting women to take the entire burden is unfair.

I agree with the rest of your post, but saying that women are taking on the entire burden of childcare is dead wrong. That is unfortunately the case in most families where both parents work full time, but when a mother decides to put her career on hold to raise children both the man and woman suffer financially. The man is the required to be the sole breadwinner, which increases stress and often hurts career advancement because risks are harder to take. Both sides are risking their financial well being if a divorce occurs, since the woman will have lower future earnings and the man will be paying spousal support on top of child support for quite some time. And both of them have to lower their standard of living to accomodate the mother staying home (assuming she an income higher than the cost of day care).

Being a stay at home mom definetly hurts the mother's career more than the father's, but don't insinuate that the woman is taking the entire burden (or even the lion's share).

Re:How does it compare? (3, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about a year ago | (#44072273)

You tell Universities that they will lose x% of their funding until y% of their Biology faculty consists of female professors with 2.1 children, and you'll see just how quickly those biological difference simply melt away.

Re:How does it compare? (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44072395)

A nicely mathematical solution, I wonder what inspired you to sugge... oooooohhhh.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | about a year ago | (#44072759)

So a math 'freak' assumes the conclusion ... to find the solution!
We'll need to find a good way to preserve that tenth of a child though.

Re:How does it compare? (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#44072905)

And of course setting blind quotas has never resulted in unintended, unwanted, and generally counterproductive consequences.

Re:How does it compare? (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44072867)

FT(research)A:

Considering all invited speakers (including declined invitations), 23% were women. This was lower than the baseline sex ratios of early-mid career stage scientists, but was similar to senior scientists and authors that have published in high-impact journals.

Speakers are invited to give a talk if they are prominent in their field, i.e., senior and/or published in high impact journals. What about the rest of the participants?

it is encouraging that the overall sex ratio of scientists presenting their work at the 2011 ESEB congress was nearly equal. Moreover, there was no strong deviation from this overall sex ratio compared to presenters of both poster categories and regular talks.

Perhaps a solution would be for organizations that promote women in science through grants and awards to increase the portions set aside for travel expenses?

equality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072013)

we're all equal, but women are more equal than men

Work is not the most important thing (1, Flamebait)

just_common_sense (2485226) | about a year ago | (#44072023)

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.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (-1, Offtopic)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#44072137)

Lol - why does society need more mothers than fathers? And "society" can go fuck itself. A person works for their own benefit. "Society" has no business to expect someone to sacrifice jack shit.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (1)

just_common_sense (2485226) | about a year ago | (#44072267)

Someone needs to raise the next generation. Young children need lots of attention, and women are more naturally inclined toward caring for them. That's not to say that fathers can't also do a good job, but it's not as instinctual for them as it is for mothers. Also, I do think that everyone should work for the good of society. Hopefully, this will make you happier as an individual, too.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072413)

Only kinda. When you make the choice to live in, that is- to partake of, part of a society it is your civic and moral duty to contribute to it.

Thus, society "expects" you to do your damn job and earn your keep. To do as such you're just going to have to deal with the idea that you'll have to sacrifice some things in your life.

Free time, personal gain, material possessions, physical pleasure... whatever. You're going to have to give up something at some point in time, repeatedly, in order to continue to live where you want to.

Re: Work is not the most important thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072811)

Dude you r all over the place. . . First NOBODY chooses to "live in society", all of us are born without being asked, after that "society" as it were makes it nearly impossibly to remove ourselves. Even to the point that trying to build a free standing structure on "society" land with your own two hands will get it torn down.

So no, nobody has an obligation to society to have or raise children. And none of us must take care of your snotty nosed kids. You choose to have kids, you take care of them. .. when the law is changed forcing every individual to procreate THAN u have an argument, but with 7 billion humans on the planet and growing I doubt there's any chance of a law like that being passed any time soon.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | about a year ago | (#44072937)

When you make the choice to live in, that is- to partake of

As the AC said, no one really chooses that.

it is your civic and moral duty to contribute to it.

Unless you believe in mystical beings who can decide what is and is not objectively wrong, you have no "moral duty" to do anything.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072335)

I'm assuming this statement's score was decremented because of the potential for flamebait? Quality mentors (mothers AND fathers) for new people (children) will be in demand as long as there are new people. Perhaps the comment would be more popular with the Slashdot community if the last sentence was modified to, "Society has a greater need for mothers AND fathers than for scientists."

Re:Work is not the most important thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072431)

That assumes the original statement was using "mother" simply in place of "parent" out of habit or simply forgot to put father in. If there was any intent of saying just "mother", as suggested by the follow up reply by the same poster and the fact it is in reference specifically to women in the work place, the absence of "father" from the original sentence conveys a big meaning to the sentence that your modification removes. Of course your modified version would be better liked, because it is a rather different message. Just as it would be a lot more acceptable, relatively speaking, to say "I'm annoyed by people" instead of "I'm annoyed by black people," the former is a lot more than just a simple variation on the meaning of the latter.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (1)

just_common_sense (2485226) | about a year ago | (#44072527)

OK, I'll clear things up. I agree that it would have been better to say "mothers and fathers", but this discussion is specifically about women, so it wasn't really me who singled out the gender. Now, that being said, I do think that mothers are better caretakers for young children, as I said in my other reply. It's just the way nature has set things up. My overall point is that we should appreciate what women are doing for society, instead of putting so much emphasis on fields of secondary importance.

Re:Work is not the most important thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072949)

It's just the way nature has set things up.

No, it's thanks to archaic gender roles.

Not too shocking. (3, Interesting)

deego (587575) | about a year ago | (#44072027)

While I'm glad they did their proper, academic statistical research with p-values and all that, the outcome isn't that shocking from a layman's perspective. Nor does it mean that men are better, in general.

That is, my point is that men, in general, tend to have a larger diversity - a wider distribution - than women do, in almost any area of skill. That is why most criminals are men, for example. And, that is why most Nobel prize winners have been men, as well.

(Of course, not discounting that sexism could play some part as well.)

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

MrHanky (141717) | about a year ago | (#44072125)

This is probably one of the few places where the correlation is not causation meme isn't total moonbat idiocy.

Re:Not too shocking. (1, Redundant)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#44072213)

Almost nothing in this comment makes any sense. What is a 'wider distribution'? You mean men are more versatile than women, more random, more prone to doing things, what?

Anytime I hear the phrase 'men are' or 'women are' I know the stupid isn't far behind, because making generalisations about the personalities and proclivities of three and a half billion people from an enormous variety of different backgrounds, cultures, and educational levels is not possible.

Re:Not too shocking. (3, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#44072307)

If I understood GP properly, he was saying that for a given skill, while the mean level of ability may be the same between genders, the variance among men will generally be higher. There will be both more genius-level men and more retarded-level men, while women will generally be more concentrated around the mean. It's a point I've heard a couple times before, never with a cited source.

Re:Not too shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072487)

The source of of the idea that men have a higher distribution than women comes from the standard deviation in IQ tests. In other words, the bell curve for men tends to be shorter, and thus wider- leaving the outliers at both ends to be skewed towards men. It is assumed this bleeds over to other areas.

Re:Not too shocking. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072361)

Men have a larger range of genetic possibilities in our DNA. It makes perfect biological sense. Think of the alpha male caveman. He is the one who will pass on the most genetic information, however that also means you have on the opposite end of the spectrum, with some weak and scrawny cavemen who aren't getting laid. Men are programmed to compete for sex. Women on the other hand, are getting pregnant no matter what, unless they very ugly or genetically unable.

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44072441)

Women on the other hand, are getting pregnant no matter what, unless they very ugly or genetically unable.

Tell that to any number of childless couples, I'm sure the'll love hearing your philosophy (end sarcasm). Not to mention that the problem may lay on the male side, women without children aren't necessarily childless because of something wrong with *them*.

Re:Not too shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072549)

Humans are no longer controlled by the natural devices of evolution. Do you know why our dicks have a mushroom head? That shape works to pump out competing sperm. If her male isn't able, another male will make sure she's getting pregnant. Religion and marriage sort of ended the practice of alpha males fucking all the females they could find.

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#44072737)

Do you know why our dicks have a mushroom head? That shape works to pump out competing sperm.

Yes, and a cat's penis is hook shaped in case any fish swam up the female cat's vagina.

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072401)

Men are specialized women. Instead of the standard XX chromosome possessed by the standard reproducing (i.e.: species continuing) members of the species, men carry an XY. The XY configuration rewires the brain so that it can enjoy simple focused goal seeking as its own purpose. Thus men are useful for working boring jobs, fighting wars, and other dangerous/unpleasant tasks that the species needs a disposable member to do.

Re:Not too shocking. (3, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year ago | (#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. ;-)

Re:Not too shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072457)

What is a 'wider distribution'? You mean men are more versatile than women, more random, more prone to doing things, what?

When you look at distribution of just about any quantifiable skill or parameter, the variance among men is higher than among women. That tells you that if you select the best or the worst from any human population according to any quantifiable criteria, chances are you get more men than women: more Nobel prize winners, more saints, but also more criminals and mass murderers. It's basic biology.

Anytime I hear the phrase 'men are' or 'women are' I know the stupid isn't far behind,

And you sure didn't disappoint providing "stupid" right away.

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072245)

I conjecture and wallow...I call BS on the whole article.

Its gotten to the point whenever someone cries discrimination my mind goes numb and I think to myself, I just want to be left alone to do my research and just keep it to myself since me being an evil male I should not even bother anymore, let the whiners and complainers have society.

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

Etherwalk (681268) | about a year ago | (#44072329)

That is, my point is that men, in general, tend to have a larger diversity - a wider distribution - than women do, in almost any area of skill.

This is impossible to parse. I am guessing you mean a wider distribution of skill level in any area of skill? As in women are more clustered around certain norms of achievement and men tend to be more divergent in both good and bad ways?

I feel like I've heard that's true for some areas (e.g. math), but I'd be very hesitant to draw that kind of across-the-board statement without massive amounts of data. Are you sure men aren't just more bombastic, both when idiots and when geniuses, so it's more obvious that they have divergent skill levels?

Re:Not too shocking. (1)

boristdog (133725) | about a year ago | (#44072651)

I think men are raised to take more risks, so this leads to a lot more wild successes as well as wild failures.

Not nearly as many women use the phrase: "Hold my beer and watch this."

Re:Not too shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072801)

"the outcome isn't that shocking from a layman's perspective. "

It is a study about Europeans after-all.

(gotta keep the american bashing at bay)

Re:Not too shocking. (2)

radarskiy (2874255) | about a year ago | (#44072965)

Men may, in general, *express* a larger diversity. The question of whether this is because of grater actually diversity in men, greater suppression of non-conforming behavior in women, or something else is the ENTIRE FUCKING POINT.

is this supposed to mean something? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44072053)

So tell us then, oh mighty TFA, how are we supposed to feel about this? Why should we care?

There is no information in TFA at all as to how are people selected to be invited, who invites them, who comes to listen to the presentations, basically there is no information there, there is only a bunch of pro-feminist nonsense: OMG, there are fewer women than men...... and? Numbers, they are missing. Information... it's missing. How many scientists are men, how many are women, how many 'excellent works' are done by men, how many are done by women, how many men are invited, how many women.

This is an empty 'article'.

Re:is this supposed to mean something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072497)

So tell us then, oh mighty TFA, how are we supposed to feel about this?

Since when is research supposed to tell you how to feel about something instead of just how things are? And for the rest of your comment, these numbers were on the first page of the article:

Women were under-represented among invited speakers at symposia (15% women) compared to all presenters (46%), regular oral presenters (41%) and plenary speakers (25%).

They also give numbers for the number of women of different ranked positions at university departments, and what portion were first author versus last author on papers.

As expected. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072065)

Typical women are more interested in the social domains of life. There are exceptions of course, but in general men are more predisposed to want to devote themselves to the sciences than women.

Yeah, I know, sexist pig and all. Sometimes the truth is not what we think it should be. On average, more men are interested in science than women. This is just a side-effect of that.

Misleading title (4, Insightful)

Laxori666 (748529) | about a year ago | (#44072099)

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.

Re:Misleading title (1, Offtopic)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#44072197)

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."

It's right there in the freaking summary...

Re:Misleading title (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about a year ago | (#44072791)

Reading comprehension fail. I thought that sentence was saying that there were also less women than men among world-class scientists, not that they took the ratio into account.

This got me to actually looking through the paper [wiley.com] . I concluded that: I wish they would make the raw data available. It would be easier to make sense of than long sentences with numbers strewn in. But yes it seems they accounted for this.

Reading the paper, it seems that this underrepresentation was only out of the invited speakers, which were 73 out of the 1022 contributors to the symposium. In the other categories that were applied for (regular speakers, "regular posters", and "essence posters"), the ratio was fair given the baseline population ratio. Interestingly, it seems the only valid reason the authors found for this being the case in terms of the invited speakers is that women turned down more invitations than men. That is:

The process of selecting invited speakers was relatively unbiased: 23% of all initially invited speakers were women. This was similar to most of our baseline sex ratios [...] this shows that, by our measures, the number of women invited initially to ESEB 2011 was not biased.

Further:

A large body of evidence highlights the existence of implicit bias against women in science [...] However, it is reassuring that the overall sex ratio of initially invited speakers [...] was comparable to most of the sex ratios of our baseline populations.

This was also good to read:

Additionally, the presence or absence of female organizers within a symposium did not influence the sex ratio of their invited speakers.

So it seems the discrepancy was due to women freely making decisions (to decline invitations to talk), not out of any inherent bias in that scientific community. That is, both their hypotheses have been falsified:

We hypothesize that because the scientific achievements of women may be less visible than the achievements of men [...] female scientists may be overlooked more often for invitations to talk. [...] We therefore expect that symposia organized only by men will have fewer female invited speakers than symposia that have at least one female organizer.

That's great news!

Re:Misleading title (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#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 [mit.edu] . 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.

Re:Misleading title (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about a year ago | (#44072971)

After I read [slashdot.org] the paper [wiley.com] , the headline seems even more misleading. The headline is "Research Reveals Low Exposure of Excellent Work By Female Scientists". However, the paper actually says that out of 1022 participants to a symposium they studied, only the "invited speakers" category of 73 participants showed an under-representation. The other 949 participants were of a fair ratio. Further, the ratio of *initially invited* speakers was also fair. It only became an under-representation because 50% of the initially invited female speakers declined to give a talk (vs. 26% of initially invited male speakers declining).

Re:Misleading title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072567)

Maybe that is why they spend some time talking about what portion of women there are at different stages of the academia career path, and also bring in numbers of women who contribute and author papers.

Re:Misleading title (1)

nbauman (624611) | about a year ago | (#44072771)

There was a study in Science of sex discrimination in Berkeley, in which researchers found that the graduate departments overall discriminated against admitting women. Then they refined the study to find out which specific departments were discriminating more -- and none of them were.

It turned out to be a now-classic example of Simpson's paradox in statistics. The engineering departments had specific requirements, engineering graduates knew whether they met those requirements, only a few students met them, and if they applied, they got in. The English departments had lots of students who met their requirements, only a few slots, and most of the English graduates who applied were rejected. There were far more women in English than engineering. So Berkeley graduate school didn't discriminate against women.

Age-old dilemma (5, Funny)

Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) | about a year ago | (#44072107)

If only female scientists would tell us their findings instead of expecting us to read their minds.

Re:Age-old dilemma (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | about a year ago | (#44072333)

I truly wish I had mod points right now.

Re:Age-old dilemma (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about a year ago | (#44072345)

Who knows what female scientists want, when it comes right down to it?

Re:Age-old dilemma (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44072411)

It's biologists we're talking about; they're trying to incentivize the researchers in the area of functional brain imaging.

I for one, welcome (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#44072113)

the smart women who aren't getting the credit they deserve!

What? You thought this was an overlord joke?

Create Education Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072147)

Well at least that is what Marissa Powell's answer would be. /ducks

In other news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072163)

Men make up over 90% of workplace fatalities, have shorter lifespans and far less spending on male-specific medical research, are far more likely to be alienated from their children when divorced, are four times as likely to commit suicide, and hold practically all of the shitty, dangerous, labor-intensive jobs.

And nobody gives a fuck.

What if men and women are different? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072181)

We sure look different! I bet men can do things better than women, and vice versa!

WHY!?!?!?! (3, Insightful)

Kungpaoshizi (1660615) | about a year ago | (#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!!!

Re:WHY!?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072247)

Stupidity does tend come in more capslock, though.

Re:WHY!?!?!?! (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44072331)

Gender makes no difference? What the hell am I lusting after then?

Re:WHY!?!?!?! (1)

Windwraith (932426) | about a year ago | (#44072957)

Another human being with biology compatible for reproduction.

Re:WHY!?!?!?! (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year ago | (#44072909)

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!!!

Wealth.

Wealthy, secure people deliberately seek sources of anxiety and conflict. A human is denied sufficient angst it will create more. There are no invaders or starvation or plagues or inquisitions to deal with among the Eloi of the west; actual problems are basically solved, so we invent fake problems to fill the void.

Not Enough Enthusiasm and Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072189)

Not sure if it plays a role, but I believe there may not be enough enthusiasm and support from female peers. That is, not just other scientists per-se, but other women in general. It seems to be a motivating factor in nearly everything else women do.

Meanwhile, men, like myself, have no problem tinkering away for days, weeks, or years (re:Tesla, Doc Emmet Brown) while everyone thinks they're a coocoo.

MLK said it best... (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year ago | (#44072203)

I have a dream, that one day, scientists will be judged on the content of their science rather than by the gametes they possess.

More faux-gender issues from Soulskill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072233)

This is his third one this week. Is he trying to impress someone?

Re:More faux-gender issues from Soulskill (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about a year ago | (#44072365)

This is his third one this week. Is he trying to impress someone?

Whoever it is, maybe she'll hook up with her Womens' Studies professor, and Soulskill can get on with his life.

Sick of this crap (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#44072275)

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.

Re:Sick of this crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072547)

Lack of interest may very well play a role, but surely you can imagine the scorn of the peers a girl deciding to become an auto mechanic would encounter...

Re:Sick of this crap (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about a year ago | (#44072709)

Jessi, Bogi and Cristy [discovery.com] would beg to differ.

Re:Sick of this crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072887)

Really? They would argue against the statement that there are far fewer women auto mechanics simply because they are auto mechanics? Some how I think you are wrong on that and a simple perusal of the yellow pages, local professional licensing boards, or the ASE is sufficient to show you are wrong. You are engaging in the fallacy of spotlighting [nizkor.org] .
 
The reason they have a show is because they are the exception, not the rule. Most motorcycle mechanics don't build custom bikes, so most don't have a show. Most fishermen don't brave the North Pacific in freezing temperatures do they don't have a show. Most people don't purposefully try out dirty, disgusting jobs, but the guy who did had a show.

Re:Sick of this crap (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | about a year ago | (#44072999)

Also, far fewer female auto mechanics. Are they being disciminated against there too?

Just an anecdote, but...

When I was in college I did a co-op at an automotive company. One of the other co-ops was talking about an auto repair shop (I think he worked there for a while?), and how its quality started dropping. He concluded the story with "...and then they put a woman in the shop!", clearly implying that this was the last straw. This was met with general laughter and agreement from the other co-ops.

Just because it's not broadcast from the rooftops doesn't mean it isn't there. A lot of this stuff happens in private. Remember, you're not the target.

Or is it more likely they don't have an interest.

Is it so hard to believe that sexism still exists? Widespread legal discrimination has been gone for less than fifty years. Well over a quarter of the U.S. population is older than that, meaning they were raised in an era where women were, by millennia-old law and custom, inferior to men. Some of those people rejected their upbringing. Some of them didn't. Some of them didn't have strong opinions, but took a lot for granted -- "this is just the way things are". All of those groups had kids, and raised them accordingly. That's a fair bit of cultural inertia. People don't change overnight.

I wonder what Miss Utah... (2)

Alejux (2800513) | about a year ago | (#44072281)

has to say about this.

The researchers analyzed the genders? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44072343)

Well, getting a free OB/GYN or urological/andrological exam can never hurt.

Sexual harassment rules complicate things (4, Interesting)

Cassini2 (956052) | about a year ago | (#44072519)

With a high-stakes career in academics, where one accusation could cause years of grief, the rule is that you never do anything with any university-connected female that could ever be misinterpreted as sexual.

You do not ask females to go out to dinner to discuss their research. You do not invite (pester) females to visit your university, repeatedly. You do not discuss an abstruse academic point in a bar until late. You do not go to the golf course with a female co-worker (married or unmarried). You do nothing that could ever be misinterpreted, which often means you do nothing at all. This applies even if you are at a conference where the only opportunity to discuss things is late at night, or over dinner, or in a hotel room, or in a bar.

On the other hand, with a male colleague, you find a common social activity and bond.

Over the course of 15 years, subtle effects like this make a huge difference in the quality of social relationships formed between researchers in a field. Good social relationships open the doors that make good professor's famous.

Re:Sexual harassment rules complicate things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072647)

And don't ask them out for coffee.

Re:Sexual harassment rules complicate things (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | about a year ago | (#44072807)

That's actually a good point. Guys do have to be especially careful when interacting with women in the workplace or in any working relationship. I can see it being difficult to be as persistent with a woman, or as social, as with guys.

At work, I've had the guys over several times to play guitars and drums together (one bass (plays drums too), one drummer, and three guitarists (us three are novices at guitar all taking lessons)). I had convinced a woman in our department to take guitar lessons after I'd started taking them last year, and even recommended my instructor. I've asked her to come over and play with the rest of the guys but not only has she refused, I've had other members on her team comment that I shouldn't be asking. That's sad because, according to our instructor, she's a good player and a good singer and we need a singer :)

[John]

Re:Sexual harassment rules complicate things (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44072945)

You do not discuss an abstruse academic point in a bar until late.

. . . if you do . . . you wake up the next morning as a permanent guest at the Ecuadorean Embassy!

On the other hand, with a male colleague, you find a common social activity and bond.

Yes, those female academics tend to talk on endlessly, fawning over ponies, shoes and Justin Bieber . . .

Good social relationships open the doors that make good professor's famous.

So male academics form "Old Boys' Networks". Actually, I would expect females academics to do the same, and form "Old Girls' Networks". That should even things out again.

But then again, just look at the Slashdot community. We don't accept or invite posts from female biologists either . . .

I for wone, welcome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072525)

more female scientists to expose themselves.

Same reason as in any other field (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072595)

It's not politically correct to say this, I know, but they might be underrepresented for the same reasons that female co-workers are underrepresented at staff meetings at my office.

At my office:
"Where's Jennifer?"
"She had to take her kid to the dentist."

At the symposium:
"I thought you were going to invite Jennifer to speak."
"She had to take her kid to the dentist."

Re:Same reason as in any other field (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072825)

Oh, so you mean... because fathers are unwilling to ever take their kids to the dentist. Got it.

Re:Same reason as in any other field (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year ago | (#44072857)

I saw Jennifer at the mall and she was not with a dentist.
Did look like a little drilling had been going on though.

Misleading. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44072723)

One cannot conclude "low exposure of excellent work by female scientists" from the data. The best one can conclude is that women were underrepresented at six biannual congresses of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology. And, even that is questionable as the article does not mention a comparison of the qualitative merits of the research or any preset themes or forums held at the congresses. It could very well be a statistic anomaly caused by a combination previous scheduling research results.

Obviously (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#44072843)

This research was done by a man otherwise we would not be hearing about it.

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