Sexism in academia

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Sexism in academia relates to the subordination of women in academic spaces (particularly universities) due to ideologies, practices, and reinforcements that give males privileges denied to females. This is normally carried out through sexism in the institutions' structure and cultural sexism.[1][2]

Sexism in academia encompasses institutionalized and cultural sexism as well as the different experiences of sexism. Sexism in academia is not limited to the admission processes based on sexist ideologies and the under-representation of women in the sciences. It also includes the denial of tenure, recognition, awards, grants, and positions to women because they are preferentially given to men.

Some individuals have argued that there are equal opportunities for women and men in sciences and that sexism does not exist anymore.[3][4] These claims are often attributed to women's "preference" and inclination for other fields and to teaching instead of research. However, such claims do not take into account that gender is central to the organization of higher education.[2] This might explain women's under-representation in academia at more senior levels, and the way in which the organization of higher education institutions might be structurally disadvantaging women by the institutionalization, practice, and valuing of masculinity which ends up reinforcing hegemonic masculinities.[1][2][5] There is no doubt of the outnumber of men and women in the science and engineering subjects, but sexism is also present in the humanities. Women are not represented in senior jobs in the humanities in despite that most students in these fields are women.[6]

Sexism in academia is the experience of sexism in an academic setting, usually higher education. There is controversy over the extent to which women being statistically underrepresented in any specific academic field is the result of gender discrimination or other factors such as personal inclination.[7][8] Although women make up 57% of undergraduate students, they make up 42% of the full-time positions in academia. In fall of 2009, according to the American Association of University Professors, half of all faculty members occupied part-time positions, and men were disproportionately underrepresented in those positions. Women earn the majority of undergraduate degrees, yet 28% of all full professors are women. This study illustrates that women are overrepresented at the undergraduate and part-time faculty levels, but underrepresented as full-time and tenured professors. Since the mid 1970s, the pay gap has remained the same; women in academia have been paid 80% of the average salary for a man, in part due to their underrepresentation among full-time and tenured faculty. In 2011, at all types of academic institutions, Female full professors had a salary disadvantage of 12%, and female associate and assistant professors had a disadvantage of 7%.[9]

Women in Academic Publishing[edit]

In many academic disciplines, women receive less credit for their research than men.[10][11][12][13] This trend is especially pronounced in engineering fields. A study published in 2015 by Gita Ghiasi, Vincent Lariviere, and Cassidy Sugimoto demonstrates that women represent 20% of all scientific production in the field of engineering. The study examined 679,338 engineering articles published between 2008 and 2013, and it analyzed the collaborative networks among 974,837 authors. Ghiasi et al. created networking diagrams, depicting the frequency of collaboration among authors, and the success of each collaboration was measured by the number of times the study was cited. The collaboration networks illustrate that mixed-gender teams have a higher average rate of productivity and citations, yet 50% of male engineers have collaborated only with other men and 38% of female engineers have collaborated only with men. The researchers use impact factors—the average annual number of citation that a journal receives—to measure the prestige of academic journals. Their study shows that when women publish their research in journals with high impact factors, they receive fewer citations from the engineering community.[10] The authors explain their findings as a possible consequence of the “Matilda Effect”, a phenomenon that systematically undervalues the scientific contributions of women.

In addition to engineering, a gender bias in publishing is exemplified in Economics. In 2015, Heather Sarsons released a working paper comparing credit allocated to men and women in collaborative research.[11] Sarsons analyzed the publication records of economists at top universities over the past 40 years, and found that female economists publish work as frequently as their male cohorts, yet their tenure prospects are less than half that of men. Women receive comparable credit to men when they solo author their work or coauthor with other female economist, evinced by a 8-9% increase in their tenure prospects, implying that tenure prospects decrease with collaborative work due to lack of credit given to women not the quality of their work. Men receive the same amount of credit for solo authoring and coauthoring their work, shown by a 8-9% increase in their tenure prospects; however, when women coauthor with men, there is zero increase in their tenure prospects.


  • "Half of all M.D. degrees are awarded to women (and an astounding 77 percent of veterinary medicine degrees); slightly more than half of the doctorates in the life sciences go to women today – that figure was 13 percent in 1970. But still (pace Larry Summers) women lag in the math-based sciences such as engineering."[14] — Emily Yoffe, posted February 8, 2011

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Armato, M (2013). "Wolves in sheep's clothing: Men's enlightened sexism & hegemonic masculinity in Academia". Women's Studies. 42 (5). 
  2. ^ a b c Savigny, H (2014). "Women, know your limits: cultural sexism in academia". Gender & Education. 
  3. ^ Dickey, Z. "Science gender gap probed". 
  4. ^ Gilbert, N. "Equal prospects for both sexes in science". 
  5. ^ Wolffensberger, J (1993). "Science is truly a male world: The interconnectedness of knowledge, gender and power within university education". Gender and Education. 5. 
  6. ^ American Psychological Association (2000). "Women in academe: Two steps forward, one step back". 
  7. ^ Bird, Sharon (March 2011). "Unsettling Universities' Incongruous, Gendered Bureaucratic Structures: A Case-study Approach". Gender, Work & Organization. 18 (2): 202–230. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0432.2009.00510.x. 
  8. ^ Pinker, Steven (2002). The blank slate : the denial of human nature in modern intellectual life. New York: Viking. pp. ch 18. ISBN 978-0-670-03151-1. 
  9. ^ 1.Curtis, John. "Persistent Inequity: Gender and Academic Employment." American Association of University Professors. 2011.
  10. ^ a b Ghiasi, Gita; Larivière, Vincent; Sugimoto, Cassidy R. (2015). "On The Compliance Of Women Engineers With A Gendered Scientific System". PLOS ONE. 10 (12): 1–19. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0145931. 
  11. ^ a b 1. Sarsons, Heather. "Gender Differences in Recognition of Group Work". Harvard University. 2015.
  12. ^ Jenkins, Fiona (2014). "Epistemic Credibility And Women In Philosophy". Australian Feminist Studies. 29 (80): 161–170. doi:10.1080/08164649.2014.928190. 
  13. ^ Rigg, Lesley S.; McCarragher, Shannon; Krmenec, Andrew (2012). "Authorship, Collaboration, And Gender: Fifteen Years Of Publication Productivity In Selected Geography Journals". Professional Geographer. 64 (4): 491–502. doi:10.1080/00330124.2011.611434. 
  14. ^ Yoffe, Emily (2011-02-08). "Sexism in Academia". Slate. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 

Further reading[edit]

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