A machine learning–assisted study of one million dissertations published between 1980 and 2010 found that scholars who wrote about topics or used methodologies associated with women were less likely than other scholars to go on to become senior faculty members.
The study’s authors, who are all affiliated with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, attribute this finding to bias against “feminized” research—such as work that mentions parenting, children or relationships—relative to “masculinized” research that mentions such topics as algorithms, efficiency or war. This pattern was consistent over the 30-year period studied. At the same time, scholars who mentioned women explicitly were slightly more likely to become senior faculty members than those who wrote just about men.
Lead author Lanu Kim, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford at the time of the study and is now an assistant professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, told Stanford News Service, “Everyone emphasizes that academia is based on meritocracy, that everything is neutral and based on the scientific value of research. It’s somewhat fake, and it’s somewhat impossible. There can be differences in men’s and women’s research interests, and some topics are already associated with women rather than men.”
“Gendered Knowledge in Fields and Academic Careers” is available online in Research Policy.