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Gender bias in commenting poses barriers to women scholars: York University sociologist

April 02, 2020

TORONTO, April 2, 2020 - Women academics are less likely than men to comment on published research, limiting scholarly debate, a new study co-authored by York University sociologist Professor Cary Wu, shows. According to the study, women are also relatively less likely to comment on their male counterparts, published research.

"Gendered patterns in academic commenting could impede scholarly exchange between men and women and further marginalize women within the scientific community," cautioned Wu, of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. "And gender inequality is still deeply felt, despite the welcoming atmosphere today for women in academia."

Wu and his co-authors Professors Sylvia Fuller (University of British Columbia); Zhilei Shi (Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Beijing, China); and Rima Wilkes (University of British Columbia), reviewed comments in two major scientific journals for this study.

They collected and hand coded author information from all comment letters and corresponding science and social science research articles published over the past 16 years in reputable scientific journals - Science and Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS.)

"Though time-consuming, this method allows for more accurate coding of gender information for the authors," said Wu, adding that the team also searched authors' profiles online to obtain images for the gender variable.

Published in PLOS ONE, the study supports the theory that women are disadvantaged across the stages of academic publishing, including collaboration, peer-reviewing, readership, citation and in media coverage.

York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world's most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university - our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni.
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York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact: Gloria Suhasini, York University Media Relations, 647-463-4354, suhasini@yorku.ca

York University

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