Diversity in Academia
The attrition of minorities in academic careers is a major concern, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subjects. For example, across all academic subjects in Europe women account for 59% of undergraduate degrees, but their share declines with every step up the career ladder: women make up 47% of PhD graduates, 45% of postdoctoral researchers, 37% of junior and 21% of senior faculty positions [European Commission, 2015]. Given the many documented benefits of diversity, this is an issue that we should all be concerned about.
As we were writing our paper on gender imbalances in question-asking at seminars, we discovered and were pointed to a lot of information on the experiences of minorities in academia. This website is our attempt at bringing it all together. We have pulled together some resources specifically about academic seminars (e.g., how to ask questions at them, how to chair them). We have also started a database listing scientific studies and media reports on the more general topic of diversity in academia. This is a massive undertaking, and we need your help to grow these resources for all to benefit from.
If you would like more information or have any feedback, please contact any of us:
Benefits of diversity
A number of articles have focused on the benefit of having diverse voices and viewpoints in academia. The following are a selection of these. While there are manifold motivations to remove barriers and open academia to all, these articles might be helpful in arguments with those questioning active efforts to increase diversity:
Ed Yong in The Atlantic: Women More Likely to Survive Heart Attacks If Treated by Female Doctors
Günter Stahl et al.: Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams
Katherine Phillips in Scientific American: How diversity makes us smarter
Kendall Powell in Nature News: These labs are remarkably diverse — here’s why they’re winning at science
Lauren Sullivan et al.: Small group gender ratios impact biology class performance and peer evaluations
Lesley Campbell et al.: Gender-Heterogeneous Working Groups Produce Higher Quality Science
McKinsey & Company: Why diversity matters
Report from EU-funded Gender Diversity Impact project: Survey Analysis and Performance Indicator Research Report
The Royal Society: Making better decisions in groups
Stephanie Hampton & John Parker: Collaboration and Productivity in Scientific Synthesis
New database of studies, media reports, and people related to diversity in academia
We have started to collect resources that document and discuss issues of diversity in academia in the following publically available Google sheets. In each sheet, use the tabs at the bottom to filter by type of resource (e.g., popular press, academic paper) or topic (e.g., career progression, teaching, research).
We need your help. The only way we can imagine this project surviving and thriving is through crowdsourcing by dedicated people like you! Please use this form (or contact any of us) to add resources to the database. This is very much still a work in progress, and the information entered thus far presents our limited knowledge:
A list with studies investigating whether and how there are differences around visibility, career progression, research, teaching, outreach activities, or other parts of academia.
A list with reports commenting on, or providing personal insights or opinions on, the issues of diversity in academia.
A list of people who are studying, or interested in, issues around diversity in academia. It started from a list of people we were aware of working on topics related to our manuscript, but our hope is that this will grow into a broad resource.
Other collections and guides addressing diversity issues in academia
There are several existing collections which provide an overview of the evidence for and guidelines to deal with biases against certain groups within academia. These tend to provide a commented view on particular issues:
500 Women Scientists: Sample of op-eds on women in science
500 Queer Scientists: Show me the facts why a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ STEM workers is important
ADVANCEGeo Partnership: Empowering geoscientists to transform workplace climate
Amherst College Initiative: Being Human in Stem
Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (formerly LSE Impact Blog): An Annotated Bibliography of Recent Studies of Academic Gender Bias and Gender Discrimination
NeuWrite West: Inequality in Stem, a dive into the data
Sarah Rugheimer: Women in Stem resources
Stepfanie Aguillon: Readings on Diversity in Science
Curt Rice: Where's the evidence about gender bias
Rebecca Kreitzer: Gender and racial bias in student evaluations
Karina Sand: Reads worthwhile on Gender
Symposium for women entering ecology and evolution today: Peer-reviewed articles about women in science
Our study: academic seminars
Women ask fewer questions than men after academic seminars
We performed a study on whether there is a gender imbalance in who asks questions after academic seminars. Our paper has now been published on PLoS One; the preprint can still be found on arXiv. To read more about why we started this project and to see our main findings, see our summary on the LSE blog. To read other summaries of our findings in the news, see the Altmetric pages here (for the paper) and here (for the preprint).
Our main finding is that female audience members asked absolutely and proportionally fewer questions than male audience members at the ~250 academic seminars we observed around the world. We noticed that this imbalance was less pronounced when the first question was asked by a woman. We suggest that our results are best explained by internalized gender role stereotypes about assertiveness and propose recommendations for increasing women’s visibility at these events.
In case you are considering effecting change in the academic presentations you attend, you might find this report helpful, which we wrote to share the main ideas with relevant people at universities and other places. We also have the infographic shown below as a flyer for download which you could distribute or hang in relevant places. We'd love to see pictures of it hanging at your institution! Please use the hashtag #diversityinacademia on Twitter. We'd also love to hear about any efforts to effect change that have resulted from exposure to our research; please share your success stories (and cautionary tales!) here, and view others' testimonials here. We'd really appreciate it, and it might even help us get funding for follow-up work.
If you'd like to share question-asking data/observations that you have collected, please use this form to add it to our database. For advice on how to plan such a study and how to analyse these data, see also the efforts of James Davenport with similar observations at conferences.
We welcome any comments and feedback on our findings! Thank you to everyone who has been in touch already: your feedback has helped us improve our manuscript.