Women's work gets less male attention

August 11, 2006

Men are less likely to cite work by female colleagues, a study of journals in a field with an equal gender split reveals. Jessica Shepherd reports.

Male academics fail to cite work by their female peers as often as they should when writing papers for journals, a study claims.

Female academics may be a growing presence in universities across the world, but this has not been reflected in greater numbers of references to their work by male academics, a paper by Malin Håkanson, a librarian at Högskolan Vast University in Sweden, has found.

Ms Håkanson analysed the citations of three international journals of library and information sciences between 1980 and 2000. This field is thought to be equally split between male and female academics.

However, she discovered that in 2000, 30 per cent of the citations in male academics' papers related to female authors, while 70 per cent related to male authors. This was a marginal improvement on 1980 when 15 per cent of the citations in male academics' papers were to female authors' work, while 85 per cent related to that of male authors.

These findings contrasted markedly with the behaviour of female researchers.

Half the citations in the female academics' papers were to female authors' work in 2000. In 1980, just over 20 per cent of citations in female academics' papers were related to female authors' work.

Ms Håkanson said her findings were not confined to library and information sciences but illustrated a wider phenomenon of gender discrimination in academic research.

She said: "I would classify the phenomenon as part of underlying gendered structures in academe. The number of female academics in library and information science worldwide is pretty much equal to the number of male academics, yet the largest amount of citations still go to articles by male authors.

"This indicates a gender bias and means that men are not quoting women as much as they deserve, despite more women entering the field."

But Ms Håkanson conceded that there could be other explanations for the discrepancy. Female academics may be, on the whole, more junior than their male colleagues and therefore less likely to be cited, she said.

There was also a delay of several years between the time an academic paper was written and when it was published by a journal. Male and female authors also write about different subjects.

Ms Håkanson said: "This phenomenon needs further study. It would be interesting to see if, for example, a specific and important work is cited in different contexts by female and male authors."

Ms Håkanson analysed Library Quarterly, The Journal of Academic Librarianship and College & Research Libraries , which published her findings.

jessica.shepherd@thes.co.uk

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