Back in December, Alex Bond on wrote a post* about calculating one’s gender gap; his post was inspired by this recent article in Nature, which I found really interesting and encourage you to read. In his post, Alex looks at the gender gap in his own academic record – that is, he looks at the female:male ratio of his supervisors, committee, field crew, and coauthors. This seemed like an interesting exercise, so I figured I’d try it (with slightly different categories). My results:
Supervisors: I have an infinite ratio, as my undergraduate advisor, PhD advisor and coadvisor, and postdoc advisor were all men. Not off to a great start in terms of gender balance, am I?
Committee members: I do better here (though, admittedly, it wouldn’t be possible to do worse!) I had six committee members (yeah, 6 was a little crazy). 2 women, 4 men (0.5 female:male ratio).
Postdocs I’ve had in my lab: 2 women, 1 man (for female:male ratio of 2)
Grad students I’ve had in my lab: 2 women, 1 man (once again giving a ratio of 2)
Undergrads in my lab: 27 women, 9 men (giving a ratio of 3**)
Okay, now on to coauthors, which is what the Nature article focused on. There are two ways to count this: I can tally the people with whom I’ve written manuscripts (just counting each person once, even if I’ve written a bunch of papers with that person). Or, alternatively, I can tally them by coauthorship (that is, weighting the counts of people I’ve collaborated with on multiple papers by the number of times we’ve published together).
Counting each person just once: 30 women, 24 men, for a ratio of 1.25
Counting each person by number of coauthorships: 68 women, 74 men, for a ratio of 0.919***. (The shift when weighting by coauthorships isn’t too surprising, given that the person I’ve published with the most is Spencer Hall.)
For comparison, the female:male ratio for the US, according to the Nature article, was 0.428. Clearly I’m doing better than average, due in part to having collaborated extensively with one woman in particular (Carla Cáceres), and in part because my lab members tend to skew female (see above).
What do I take away from this? I’m not sure, to be honest. It’s interesting to know, I guess, but I don’t think I’ll change anything I do in response. But I guess that’s okay, since my gender ratio (for coauthors) is pretty good.
It does make me wonder what someone would do if they weren’t happy with their gender gap. Early on, mentors are key coauthors. I personally didn’t consider gender when choosing my advisors and, if I were to do it all over again, I would choose to work with the same advisors without any hesitation at all. I do know some women who intentionally chose to work with women, but that never really occurred to me. And, besides, they chose to work with women for reasons other than having a roughly even gender ratio of coauthors. (This interesting post from scitrigrrl at Tenure, She Wrote deals with the topic of whether male and female mentors fill different roles.) And, for collaborators, I haven’t really considered gender either. One of my closest collaborators is male, and the other is female, but that’s an accident. But, I guess if I had a really big gender gap, that might be a sign that I need to examine whether I have biases in terms of how I am choosing potential collaborators.
Do you think there’s value in calculating an individual’s gender gap? If you were unhappy with yours, are there things you think you will change in response?
*Who says there isn’t an ecology blogosphere? (Okay, fine, this wasn’t exactly a prompt reply, suggesting the infrequency of posting might be part of the issue!)
** I have wondered at what point this ratio would be too high. I think it’s normal for me to tend to have more female undergraduates in my lab, both because biology undergrads skew female, and because female students often prefer to work with female faculty.