Earlier this week, the New York Times published the findings of research conducted by Harvard economist Heather Sarsons, whose works illuminates a startlingly large problem for female economists—frequently, they do not receive credit for their work, especially when it’s done collaboratively.
Sarsons studied “young economists recruited by top universities in the United States over the last 40 years,” according to the New York Times article by Justin Wolfers. After combing through their publication records—success in economics, she explains, is contingent upon being published and tenured—Sarsons discovered that women “perish” in the field twice as often as their male counterparts, meaning they are not tenured, promoted, or re-hired.
It’s the exception that proves the rule here, since Sarsons’ findings showed that “women who solo author everything” receive tenure just as frequently as men—results that should make you mad whether you’re an economist or not (in fact, especially if you’re not, since this trend exists in almost all male-dominated fields where authorship is part of the work).
The problem at the heart of Sarsons’ work—published here—is summed up in a Washington Post article published this fall. The Post explains that this discovered “penalty for co-authorship only exists when women work with men.” In all-female research teams, there’s no debate over who deserves credit—they all get what they worked for, but in groups with men, they fight just to have their name attached to the work.
This issue, sadly, is not new and is not contained to economics. We know Rosalind Franklin made invaluable contributions to the discovery of DNA, but Watson, Crick, and Wilson (all men) received credit and a Nobel Prize, and it was years before people knew her name. According to what was named The Matilda Effect, men receive recognition for women’s work and women pay the price and are held back—not because of poor research but because they’re rendered practically invisible. As if enough challenges don’t already accompany trying to succeed in a male-dominated field (grading bias and stereotype threat, anyone?) women face this injustice across all STEM fields.
Here’s hoping Sarsons’ work, for which we’re glad she received full credit, means more acknowledgement for more women.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.