Digging for answers

November 19, 2014

On an archaeology field trip in New Mexico as an undergraduate in 2006, Dana Bardolph noticed something that struck her as an odd gender imbalance: The professor leading the dig was a men, while the graduate assistant and all but two of the 14 undergrads were women.

"And it just got me thinking," Bardolph recalled. "Is this reflective of the profession as a whole, or is it an anomaly?"

The question stayed with her, and four years ago she decided to search for an answer. Her findings -- generated after digging through more than 4,500 peer-reviewed papers in 11 archaeology journals covering a 23-year period -- are published in a recent issue of the archaeology journal American Antiquity.

Bardolph, a Ph.D. student in UC Santa Barbara's Department of Anthropology, found that female authors are significantly and consistently underrepresented in American archaeology journals. Indeed, although the gender ratio among researchers is roughly equal, in the journals Bardolph surveyed, female authors account for slightly less than 29 percent of articles published.

"I found that there was no significant difference between any of the regions, any of the journals, so it was really a ubiquitous pattern across the study samples," Bardolph said.

The results, she and researchers familiar with the paper said, have deep implications not just for women in the field but for the direction and substance of archaeology itself. Bardolph argues, based on feminist theory, that the low rates of publication perpetuate a marginalization of female researchers in academia and demonstrate what she called "a pernicious historical bias with regards to the visibility, recognition, presentation and circulation of women's writing."

Bardolph's adviser, Amber VanDerwarker, associate professor of anthropology and director of UCSB's Integrative Subsistence Laboratory, said the paper has the potential to catalyze a movement toward greater gender equity in publishing and academia. "It is hugely significant because there have been articles here and there that talk about this issue of gender equity in the field," she said, "and none of the studies has done this much data collection and analysis; this is the first study of this scale looking at publication rates."

Among the articles surveyed in the major journals, Bardolph found 71.4 percent were lead-authored by men and 28.6 percent by women. The regional journals revealed nearly identical numbers. In addition, the data were consistent over time.

While the data demonstrated a clear gender bias, what they didn't show is the source, said Bardolph, whose specialty is paleoethnobotany, a study of the relationship between humans and plants in the past.

The journals don't track submissions by gender, so there's no way to tell if men are being favored explicitly, she said. Other studies, however, have found that men submit papers far more often than women do, with equal rejection rates among the genders.

Based on her research, Bardolph said she suspects the bias is likely a result of authorial behavior rather than editorial or reviewer bias. Women, she noted, are more likely to take on "nurturing" roles in academia and accept positions in smaller teaching colleges as opposed to large research universities with their more abundant resources.

"When you have grad students you can collaborate with, you publish more than you would if you were doing everything by yourself," VanDerwarker said. "I spent a few years at a teaching college just struggling to keep up with the publication record."

Another potential factor Bardolph noted is more subjective: braving the sometimes-brutal journal submission process. The anonymity of peer reviewers occasionally engenders harsh rejections. And archaeology, which has long been dominated by men, is no exception.

"I think it's highly plausible that the issue of rejection ¾ and whether you do decide to revise and resubmit or discard the manuscript -- has a lot to do with confidence issues," Bardolph said. "I wouldn't be surprised if that was in fact the case, that perhaps women were revising and resubmitting less often than men."

For Bardolph, getting academia to acknowledge gender bias is just one step on a long road to equality. "People aren't really realizing this sort of inequality is still pervasive," she said. "My real goal is to bring awareness to the issue and to inspire people to delve more deeply into their particular subdisciplines and continue this type of research so we can continue to explore why these inequities perpetuate and think about what we can do about them."
-end-


University of California - Santa Barbara

Related Anthropology Articles from Brightsurf:

Study finds field of forensic anthropology lacks diversity
The field of forensic anthropology is a relatively homogenous discipline in terms of diversity (people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, etc.) and this is highly problematic for the field of study and for most forensic anthropologists.

Neandertal gene variant increases risk of severe COVID-19
A study published in Nature shows that a segment of DNA that causes their carriers to have an up to three times higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals.

How do Americans view the virus? Anthropology professor examines attitudes of COVID
In her latest study, Northern Arizona University professor Lisa Hardy looks at how Americans' attitudes and responses have changed during the time of the pandemic and how to many people, the virus is not a biological agent but instead a malicious actor.

Neandertals may have had a lower threshold for pain
Pain is mediated through specialized nerve cells that are activated when potentially harmful things affect various parts of our bodies.

Running in Tarahumara culture
Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture. The Tarahumara (Rarámuri) are a Native American people from Chihuahua, Mexico, who have long been famous for running, but there is widespread incredulity about how and why they run such long distances.

The growing pains of orphan chimpanzees
Using long-term behavioral and hormonal data from wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have revealed that mothers may be shaping pre-adult growth and offspring muscle mass even without direct provisioning.

Caribbean settlement began in Greater Antilles, say University of Oregon researchers
A fresh, comprehensive look at archaeological data suggests that seafaring South Americans settled first on the large northernmost islands of the Greater Antilles rather than gradually moving northward from the much closer, smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Human songs share universal patterns across world's cultures
From love songs to lullabies, songs from cultures spanning the globe -- despite their diversity -- exhibit universal patterns, according to a new study.

Skull features among Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly
Forensic anthropologists have now discovered that several skull features in Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly with regard to shape, such that they can be distinguished using statistical analyses.

Skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians differ despite close physical proximity
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have conducted a craniometric study (measuring the main part of the skull) on understudied and marginalized groups and found that skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians, who occupy a relatively small island of Hispaniola, are different from each other.

Read More: Anthropology News and Anthropology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.