When Men And Women Work Together, Guess Who Gets The Recognition?

A new study shows that women often don't get credit where it’s due.
According to a study, women may not receive the credit they deserve when they collaborate with men.
According to a study, women may not receive the credit they deserve when they collaborate with men.
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Academic studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background

According to research from the past three decades, women are typically less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. Such statistics inspired Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate at Harvard University, to explore whether men and women receive the same promotional results when they collaborate. The results of that study were published in Sarsons' December 2015 working paper titled "Gender Differences in Recognition for Group Work."

The Setup

Sarsons gathered a sample of 552 economists who were up for tenure between 1975 and 2004 at top universities in the United States. By looking at their CVs, she gathered information about their published work, their PhDs and their employment histories. She then figured out whether they had received tenure, based on when tenure decisions were made for each school.

The Findings

Sarsons discovered that men and women in the economics field who "solo-author" papers have about the same odds of being promoted, or in this case becoming tenured. However, when it comes to collaborative efforts, many women face a "coauthor penalty" that men don't.

"While women who solo-author everything have roughly the same chance of receiving tenure as a man, women who coauthor most of their work have a significantly lower probability of receiving tenure," Sarsons wrote.

She also noted the coauthor penalty keeps in mind differences in fields of study, tenure year and other relevant factors.

The Takeaway

Although many studies are completed thanks to collaborative efforts, this research indicates that women are more likely to get the credit they deserve if they are the only author on a project. This is an unfortunate reality for women who have successful professional collaborations with their male colleagues.

"For years, I've benefited from colleagues giving me the 'big half' of the credit for our joint work. In some cases, they have been explicit about this," he wrote. "But I know what they don't: That work was a true partnership, the result of countless late nights crunching numbers."

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