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Closing the gender pay gap for scientists

A gap in how often men and women scientist’s work gets cited can explain why women earn less in science. There is strong evidence that women are not cited less per article than men, but that women accumulate fewer citations over time and at the career level. Cary Wu, Associate Professor of Sociology at York University, argues in a blog post published by LSE.  A focus on research productivity is key to understanding and closing the gender citation gap, he concludes.

“Citation counts count. The number of citations is commonly perceived as indicative of a researcher’s productivity and academic impact. It weighs heavily in considerations for hiring, promotion, funding allocation, and salary increases within academic institutions.”

Given that the gender citation gap primarily stems from women publishing fewer articles over their careers, the author suggests:

  • Men and women should co-write more with women. Research collaboration is a strong predictor of publishing productivity.
  • Journal editors may consider extending more invitations to women for article submissions. This may help minimise gender-related bias in the formal review and editorial decisions.
  • Universities may allocate additional research time to women faculty members. Granting women additional time dedicated to research may be instrumental in boosting their overall research productivity.
  • Government and funding organisations may consider funding more women’s research. Promoting gender equity in funding decisions may serve as a potent strategy to bolster the research productivity of women.
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He argues that since women are not, on average, being cited less per each paper they produce, gender-based bias and discrimination in citing behaviours or the undervaluation of women’s research may not be the causes of women’s fewer citations.

This also means that simply advocating for citing more women may not be the best approach to address the gender gap in citations.

He writes that surprisingly, the gap is much larger in fields where there are more women such as psychology, sociology, and veterinary science. 

With the increase in the share of women in science over time, the gender citation difference has also become greater, not smaller, his study shows.

Women publish less than men over the career course. “Having fewer articles translates to fewer opportunities for receiving citations. Research productivity is the main cause of the career-level differences in citations between men and women.”

“The lower productivity of women, and consequently their fewer citations, stems from different challenges men and women face over the course of their careers. Women often experience shorter publishing career lengths and higher dropout rates. Family responsibilities, lack of research collaborations, and lower levels of specialisation are also among the contributing factors.”

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Articles written by women on average receive more citations than those written by men but women accumulate fewer total citations.

This gender gap grows larger with time as men and women progress in their careers. Research productivity can explain a large share of the gender citation gap, is his conclusion.

“My analysis of a bibliometric profile that includes citation and salary information for nearly two thousand scholars from two Canadian universities shows a strong citation and salary correlation. For every additional citation a researcher gets, their annual salary increases by $15.” 

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