Female authors are underrepresented as sole and premier authors and as members of author teams in undergraduate college course readings, according to the research.
“Women are underrepresented as authors in course materials across disciplines, which limits students’ exposure to women experts,” says Jenine Harris, professor at the Brown School at the University of Washington in St. Louis and co-author of an article on the gender gap in the curriculum. PLOS ONE.
“And it’s completely fixable,” says co-author and professor Amy Eyler. “This document helps raise awareness of the disparity, so that instructors can intentionally create a more equitable playlist.”
From a list of courses offered in 2018-2019 at the University of Washington, the authors selected a stratified random sample of course programs in four disciplines: humanities; social science; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and other. They coded the gender of the course instructors and course reading authors using the genderize application programming interface, which allowed authorship to be categorized by gender. They then examined the reading, course, and discipline representation of female authors using descriptive statistics and data visualization.
The final sample consisted of 2,435 reads from 129 unique courses. The average percentage of female authors per reading was 34.1%. Some 822 (33.8%) of the readings were led by women (that is, a first or only female author). Female paternity varied by discipline, with the highest percentage of readings directed by women in the social sciences (40%).
Teachers assigned a higher percentage of reads with female authors first and reads with higher percentages of women on writing teams. The representation of women authors in programs was lower than the representation of women as authors in peer-reviewed literature or in the workforce.
“In addition to the evidence for the gender gap in the programs, we found that female authors were under-represented as sole and first authors and as members of author teams,” said Harris. “Since assigned readings promote academic research and influence the diversity of the workforce, we recommend several strategies to diversify programs by raising awareness of the gap and improving access to publications by female authors. . “
To help faculty more easily identify readings from under-represented groups, the authors recommend the development of reading collections that teachers can draw from.
“These collections could ideally be hosted in a central location, perhaps on discipline-specific professional association websites or in discipline-neutral locations like the The Chronicle of Higher Education, says Eyler.