Gender Inequality in Academia: Men continually deny women authorship credit
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Last week I found an interesting and surprisingly relevant headline in the Inside Higher Education newsletter, “Science’s Women Ghostwriters.” The article discussed that women in science, which can be applied to every area of academia, “are ‘systematically’ denied credit for their work,” which the study’s authors conclude is “the result of implicit bias.” According to the study released on June 22, 2022, and published in Nature, “Many women scientists report having their work go un- or undercredited, and some say they’ve left science altogether as a result.”  All publications, from academic to political to fashion, even covered the topic. It is a topic I know so well, one I have been researching, writing about, and lived through.
The “paper finds that women are significant — and systematically — less likely to be recognized than their male peers.” The numbers are troubling, “Women were 13 percent less likely to be named on articles and 58 percent less likely to be named on patents than their male collaborators.”  The more significant the work, with more citations, the less likely women are included as authors; women are given authorship in 38 percent of the studies examined but represented 48 percent of the scientists. Women are more excluded than men from authorship, 38 to 43 percent, but must more women feel their contributions to the field are undervalued and unappreciated. The gender gap in STEM is studied more because of the available data but happens just as often in other fields to women in all stages of their careers.
In 2019, another similar study, “Gender Disparity in Authorship Existent in Academia,” found men were given more authorship credit in scientific publications than women even if their contributions did not deserve the credit. The study found, “Inequality seen in female authorship is another issue affecting academia. This is connected to underrepresentation of women in the scientific and academic communities. This gender disparity in authorship can have negative consequences, including a lack of recognition for the work done by female scientists. In fact, it might have led to the decrease in female students entering the scientific community.”  The problems are the same in most academic fields, especially where men are the majority.
A 2020 study concluded that even if women are given authorship credit, they are denied first-place authorship. The study in Nature was entitled, “More gender equality in authorship, issues in the past when looking at empirical work on authorships and therefore we need to think how we can improve gender equality in publishing.” The authors found, “The piece also referred to evidence from mixed-gender co-first authors in high-impact clinical journals indicating that women are significantly more likely to be placed second.” 
In her Medium article, “The Culture of Genius and Women Impostors in Academia,” Professor Maria Angel Ferrero discusses the “Underrepresentation and discrimination of women in Academia.” Ferrero indicates, “Women, compared to male peers, earn less, take longer to get tenure, occupy fewer top tier positions, receive fewer grants and scholarships, just to name a few. On top of all that, women in academia are expected to work harder, produce more research, participate in multiple projects, take on more service and teaching hours, nurture their students, listen and show compassion for their colleagues, and outperform male academics, to just maybe get equal chances and treatment.” 
According to the International Growth Centre, “Barriers to women’s careers in academia persist, and not just in the notorious STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Here are five facts that illustrate why we are still far from parity.”  One of the top reasons is that women in academia do not promote themselves the same way men do. Women do not shamelessly promote their work; we are more subdued because we fear the aggressive label. The study states, “The numbers suggest that only 21% of women self-cited their own work, compared to 31% of men. This has a direct impact on women’s careers in academia, as the number of peer-reviewed publications and citations are the two key criteria taken into account for promotions. This is a classic catch-22. Negotiating and self-promoting by women are also judged to be negative traits by both men and women. Research shows that women, in academia and beyond, are either liked or respected, but not both (Cuddy, Fiske and Glick 2004).” 
This past winter, after discovering that I had been plagiarized, I wrote a series of articles on plagiarism, “How the academic elites stole my Judah Benjamin biography: James Traub’s Judah Benjamin: Counselor to the Confederacy,”  “An enduring problem in academia professors also plagiarize but get away with it”  “Gender Inequality in Academia: Women are undercited and plagiarized.”  The last one was supposed to be posted in honor of International Women’s Day, focusing on the under citation of women in academia, I wrote over 4,000 words on the topic, about the research behind sexism in academia and my personal experiences, but I never finished the article until now. Why? Women being undercited and the inequality in academia was probably one of the most depressing topics I ever wrote about, and I have repeatedly studied and written about antisemitism.
Men in academia are the gatekeepers; they want to prevent women from getting ahead because they might surpass them. Since published works are the name of the game in academia, the men’s solution denies women authorship credit for the writing and research. The phrase footnote in history has its reasons. Male academics make the women they work with footnotes to their labors; the men reap the praise the women get nothing. Without authorship and credits, women cannot get the promotion they need to climb the ladder; it is the equivalent of professional starvation.
Continuing in on my point about women not receiving the credit they deserve in academia, this was one such experience. In 2009, I was asked by a former professor, Gil Troy, at McGill University to add overviews and timelines to the essays on each of the elections from 1789 through 2008 for the revised 4th edition of the encyclopedia, the History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008 edited initially by famed historian Arthur M. Schlesinger and Fred L. Israel. When he came to me, the overviews featured a few topics; I was the one with the minutiae and many facts included in the final copy of the overviews. Adding the overviews and essays for the 2004 and 2008 elections was the significant changes to the new edition. Troy admitted in the introduction about the major additions, “For this 2011 edition, we reviewed the original text for any anachronisms, added electoral overviews, chronologies, and electoral maps and statistics, and updated the bibliography for each section.” (xx) Therefore, in taking on the overviews and chronologies, Troy handed over a large part of the work for the project to me.
In June 2019, in the middle of the #metoo movement, I posted on Facebook, but I did not say what I wanted or should have said. I feared retribution for speaking out for myself. I wrote:
“Herculean indeed, try almost impossible in 3 months… The draft “Election Overviews” I contributed to the revised History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008 (2011) edited by my former professor Gil Troy and the famed Arthur M. Schlesinger and Fred L. Israel; unfortunately, it too is out of print and only available as an e-book. https://www.academia.edu/.../History_of_American..."
Instead of the contributor credit I was promised or deserved, Troy just gave me one line in the acknowledgment section of the introduction. He wrote, “Bonnie undertook the Herculean task of compiling the first drafts of the impressive overviews and chronologies.” (xx). Although Troy acknowledged my significant work and praised it, he did not give the contributor credit anyone should have been given for a task and contribution that huge in a publication. In the Table of Contents, the authors of the essays were listed as the contributors, and then the overviews and chronologies were listed, making it appear they authored it when some were written a long time ago.
I have always been almost obsessive about copyright and credit in my work, whether writing or painting. I sacrificed monetarily for the proprietorship of my work; clear credit has always been necessary if copyright was impossible. Troy was one of my mentors, I had done occasional research assistance work, and I trusted him and believed him when I asked for a contributor credit, and he made me think I would receive it once the project was complete. Looking back, I can see I was more trusting, and his response was a vague positive allusion I would receive the credit, enough for my young naïve self to believe. He wanted me to believe in taking on the massive project because it is easier to direct than do.
It was four months in the fall of 2009 of grueling work; I barely slept, ate, breathed, or anything, and my hands ached from typing. When you constantly work in such a stressed environment, the work especially writing and research, suffers. I was in Montreal and had to be available and work on Israel time. I got Shabbat off, but Troy was there barely seconds after Shabbat ended on the phone and email. I will admit my faults; with the enormity of the project, I procrastinated in the summer about how I should tackle the project. I did not correct my rough drafts as I went along. I had a bad habit of placing the text I was working from within my document to work from and not putting citations because I was not supposed to be for anyone else’s eyes except mine until complete.
The project was not supposed to be filled with footnotes, just a list of sources, making rough drafts clear only to me at that point. Troy demanded perfection, but there is no such thing as perfect rough drafts, even his book manuscripts. I would have provided a perfect draft had Troy not constantly threatened to take away the work from me and give it to someone else, as he called a crackerjack team of researchers or fact-checkers. I knew how significant my contribution was to such a legendary publication.
In the end, despite my efforts, the project drained me from the constant work, and nothing I did seemed to please Troy. Do not ever work with someone if you want to remain friends; money, work, and deadlines do not mix. Animosity sets in; through the project, Troy realized, as most men in academia do, he gave me an exceptional opportunity to make my mark, with a big part in a legendary publication’s new edition.
I felt betrayed that I was denied the contributor credit, I was paid for the project as a whole, but was also never given a copy of the expensive volume. I had done work for other encyclopedias before, and I had completed bibliographies and still been given credit. Men in academia will use any reason to degrade women to justify why they should deny them the authorship credit they deserve for their work. Troy will justify not giving me my contributor credit based on my rough drafts. However, he would never have treated another man working on the project the way he did me, and he would have given them the contributor credit for the work on the outlines and chronologies.
The project took me away from my work as the Features Editor at the History News Network, a position I cherished. One can never bounce back from such a considerable absence from a position, especially in journalism. In the extended absence, I let down my other mentor, Rick Shenkman, whom I learned so much from at HNN, which shaped my career. At HNN, authorship credit was always given justly and fairly, from intern to contributor to the editor, no matter what, and I had been lucky to serve as an editor in a male field.
My revelation is not in disrespect to Professor Troy; I learned so much from him about history, but that does not mean inequality was not there. Although I did not go to a doctorate program, what I learned from both Shenkman and Troy was the equivalent of a doctorate program. Still, it does not mean that because women have male mentors and teachers, they do not deserve credit for work when they author it, and Troy, who claims to be a feminist, should have acted justly.
We keep seeing studies published where women are undercited in publications in 2013, in 2021, where women were denied authorship in 2017, and again in 2022.   The cycle continues because men do not want to give women the prestige and opportunity citations, and authorship gives women for advancement in academia from the time of graduate school through professorships, tenure, and university leadership positions. Men in academia might want to seem progressive and claim they are feminists, but none of them are when it comes to giving women the credit that would help advance their careers, even if it is deserved. Even looking at the acknowledgments and Troy’s crackerjack team, only one other female, was listed. From the onset of undergraduate studies, women are chosen less as research assistants, despite being the majority of students. The same bias and inequality continue through the academic journey and ranks.
Fortunately for me, through my initiative, scholars have given me the credit I was denied citing me in several books and journal articles. Schools have used my outlines and chronologies in teaching. Readers worldwide have read my contribution to the encyclopedia more than any other part of the encyclopedia’s revised edition. Women must take the same initiative, make their voices heard, and get back the credit denied. Men will not change; we have to be that change, or we will continue to read about these studies for years to come.
Troy, Gil, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South,” “We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism,” and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”
Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”
Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over fifteen years of experience in education and political journalism.
 Under-representation of women in Academia | The Faculty (medium.com) https://medium.com/the-faculty/women-under-representation-in-academia-3e950e02d699