Research Topic

Underrepresentation of Women in Science: International and Cross-Disciplinary Evidence and Debate

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The question of why women are underrepresented in some fields (e.g., geoscience, physics, mathematics, computer science, philosophy, economics, engineering) but not in others (e.g., biology, medicine, social science, psychology, veterinary science, linguistics) is a very broad issue. There are also scores of ...

The question of why women are underrepresented in some fields (e.g., geoscience, physics, mathematics, computer science, philosophy, economics, engineering) but not in others (e.g., biology, medicine, social science, psychology, veterinary science, linguistics) is a very broad issue. There are also scores of subquestions subsumed under this overarching topic, having to do with issues such as sex differences in publishing, citations per article, grant awards, hiring and tenure rates, etc. Alleged causes of women’s underrepresentation in science that have been debated include the following: Do sex differences in high-level mathematical ability favor men? Are different lifecourse preferences of men and women leading them to pursue differing career paths? Do stereotypes about math and gender decrease women’s entry into STEM fields? Are there structural inequalities related to childrearing and the tenure clock that inhibit women from succeeding? Do women place a greater premium on temporal flexibility in jobs, which results in limited career prospects? Are the well-documented sex differences in “people-thing” preferences tilting women toward biology and medicine and men toward engineering and computer science? Does bias exist in evaluating women’s work products (grant applications, manuscripts, teaching)? And finally, is there sex discrimination in hiring, pay raises, and promotion? Due to the wide range of alleged causes of the dearth of women in some scientific fields, it would seem most valuable to assemble a cast of contributors who cover a wide range of methods (i.e., experimental, correlational, interview), nations, and fields. Our goal is to compile at least 15 manuscripts from top international researchers on this topic. At least some of these contributors will focus on disaggregated data because of the likelihood that fields differ significantly in how they hire, promote, and remunerate the sexes, and thus, any findings that are based on combined (cross-discipline) data may mask important field-specific differences. This compilation should be an important source for all future scholars and policymakers in all fields and countries. No perspective or methodology will be ignored.


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