Katharina Wolf writes about gendered authorship in demographic publication.
Attaining gender equality is one of the major challenges of today’s societies. In most Western countries women have reached parity or even outperformed men in terms of higher educational attainment. This development has been accompanied by women’s greater involvement in academic research output, which is one of the most important indicators of academic achievement. In fact, it has been shown that male and female researchers have reached parity in publication output in a number of disciplines. However, does this finding really hold at closer inspection? Do women publish at the same pace in high-ranked journals? When they publish, are they able to hold the prestigious position of first authorship? Furthermore, is there a segregation of research themes by gender within a discipline?
In order to answer these questions for our field, we have assembled a database that includes all publications of the scientific journal “Demography” for the period 1964 to 2014. Demography is the flagship journal of the Population Association of America (PAA), and is one of the most highly ranked journals in the field of demographic research. First, we examined gender differences in publication activities. Here, we simply calculated the share of women who published in Demography by calendar year (the article includes an extensive explanation regarding how gender was identified). These analyses suggest that publication in Demography nowadays is almost “gender-equal.” The share of female authors increased from 14% in 1964-1979 to 44% in 2010-2014.
Second, we analysed whether women were equally likely to hold the prestigious first authorship position. As can be depicted from Figure 1, women were about as likely as men to have been the sole author or the first author of a paper with multiple authors.
The third aspect that we examined was the sex segregation in publication activities by sub discipline. To this end, we grouped different articles by subfields, distinguishing “fertility”, “family and household”, “mortality and health”, “migration”, “data and methods”, and “other”. Figure 2 illustrates the evolution of publication subfields in Demography over time. It shows that the share of articles in the categories “data and methods”, “migration”, and “fertility” in the journal declined over time; while articles covering “mortality and health” and “family and household” feature more prominently in more recent periods.
Our multiple regression analyses by gender reveal that women seem to be less likely than men to have published papers in the categories “data and methods”, “migration”, and “mortality and health” but female authors have been overrepresented in the “family and household” category. We find no difference by gender in publications on fertility research.
In sum, it seems that women are almost as likely to publish as men in Demography and they are as likely to hold the prestigious first author position. However, there are gender differences in publications by subfields in demographic research. What does follow from this finding? Does this mean that women are (dis)advantaged because they are pushed or pulled into certain areas of research? Our investigation is unable to fully answer that question. Moreover, examining the number of female submissions would have enabled us to assess whether female authors were subjected to discrimination in the review process, but this information was not available. However, an investigation of the consequences of the gendered publication strategies is a logical step that follows from this initial research.
This post is based on the study “Gendered Authorship and Demographic Research: An Analysis of 50 Years of Demography” by Sandra Krapf (University of Cologne), Michaela Kreyenfeld (Hertie School of Governance) and Katharina Wolf (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and University of Groningen). It was published in Demography 2016, Volume 53, Issue 4.