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Paper: female scholars of different ranks repel each other

The Australian is among the numerous outlets that were intrigued by a newly published paper on women in science:

Queen bees won’t work with wannabe’s in academia, study finds (Australian)

Rank influences human sex differences in dyadic cooperation (Current Biology, Cell, full PDF)
Benenson, Markovits, and Wrangham of Boston, Montreal, and Harvard looked at psychology papers between 2008 and 2012 and they found a pattern that is rather novel but not completely unexpected when it comes to the issue of "women in science". Senior female scholars are rather unlikely to cooperate with junior female colleagues.

The authors actually "predicted" this conclusion and then they tested it using the ensemble of papers written at 50 North American universities. The assumption boiled down to previous observations that women prefer to reduce the group size in order to interact with one individual of equal rank only.

It should mean that, for example, female full professors are less likely to write a paper with a female assistant professor, and so on. They looked at the data and the expectation was confirmed.

There are many related, easier relationships you might conjecture, discuss, and test. For example, I believe that they haven't found a difference in the cooperation rate between two female full professors and two male full professors. To see the substantial sex differences, it's probably necessary to guarantee the unequal rank between the two cooperating sides.

Well, when I recall some observations in my years in the Academia, I must confirm that their finding does agree with my experience. I could tell you the names of several "pairs of women" that could serve as examples but of course, I won't (and please don't try to speculate because the number of female physicists I have met in my life is still rather high). There would be lots of talk about "discrimination of women by men" and all this junk. This talk was disconnected from the reality. I've actually never met a male faculty member who could be really accused of anything like that. Quite on the contrary, the favoritism aiding women was always omnipresent. And senior male scholars obviously like junior female collaborators – most of the senior male scholars are straight, after all.

However, if we focused on the relationships of female professors – a minority but for me, still a large enough ensemble for the conclusions to be more than a couple of random accidents – we could see that e.g. female postdocs were much more likely to have some relationship problems with the female faculty members, among analogous glitches.

The raw data don't tell us whether the difference is a "good thing" or a "bad thing" and they don't identify the actual "reason" behind the asymmetry. Nevertheless, the asymmetry is still there. You might suggest that the reduced ability of the senior women to cooperate is about their lower leadership abilities; or their being threatened by a potential new rising "queen".

Another possible comment that could "explain" those things is that women are used to a significantly smaller variability in between them so the very idea that "different women may have different ranks" is something they're not quite able to smoothly deal with.

Some of the popular articles discussing this topic also ask whether men or women are better in team sports. There are suggestions that despite the image of men as being more competitive (i.e. naively less cooperative), there is something in the men that makes them able to create more tightly cooperating teams.

There are many ways to think about the issues, many ideas how you may want to explain the patterns and that may be right or wrong. I feel that many of the questions could be rather easily answered – e.g. if you could just asked the scholars to give you a frank answer! But too much of this stuff is too personal and taboo; people may be hiding interests and emotions that are totally essential for them but that don't help to improve their image. And that's why lots of similar questions will probably remain shrouded in mystery for quite some time.

But what is clear is that there are significant statistical differences between men and women when it comes to their interests, talents, and abilities of many sorts; their competitiveness; their cooperativeness; their understanding and concentration of envy and jealousy; their way of mixing or separating the work from personal relationships, and in virtually all other aspects of life and work. Almost none of these differences is "absolute" so that you could say that "men always do XY" and "women never do XY" or vice versa. But rather small ensembles are usually enough to see the statistical differences between the sexes.

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reader Mikael said...

If this is true than it is surely a not desirable preference. Because of complementary skills collorbaration between young and old is always beneficial especially in science where the established professors have the experience whereas the students have the fresh ideas, brain power and energy.

reader Honza said...

It seems pretty simple. Selection of partner for project is not random. Given the pressure of feminists and politically correct dudes, every man will try to get a women as part of the team, if for nothing else than in order not to be accused of sexism. He knows that he will be scrutinized on that.
Woman on the other side already has a women on her team (herself) and on the top of it, in nowadays PC environment she cannot be really accused of anything, , least of all of sexism. Thus she can choose her team based on other criteria then sex.

reader Uncle Al said...

Demand Equal Opportunity!
Enforce Equal Opportunity!
Inflict Equal Opportunity!

reader Alexander Ač said...

Cant wait for a nice peacefull world with 10 billion people and everybody enjoying US or EU lifestyle!

reader Eugene S said...

U.S. and Russia are both declining, but Russia much more precipitously than the U.S.

We must be careful. A cornered rat may do crazy things. Let Russia shrink in peace.

China is on the rise but has a long way to go yet before overtaking the U.S. ... decades at least, but if they frighten their Asian neighbors it will take them even longer.

reader peterson said...

>most of the senior male scholars are straight, after all.

You could not be more wrong. There is a vast number of mostly closeted gays - especially in physics and math. But you are no expert so I exculpate you. I on the other hand have a gaydar ;) so I know. Mostly they feel ashamed (if they know it at all) - a fact covered by loving wives.

reader papertiger0 said...

Dude just called you me and everyone here a right wing wacko serial killer, and your knee jerk reaction is to defend Planned Parenthood? Interesting where your priorities lay.

55 million babies murdered and counting ( tabulated from Planned Parenthoods own research ; excluding California and New Hampshire which refuse to report tabulation of abortions to anyone under any circumstance)

At least Calif state officials are suitably ashamed and/or assume the average Californian would be.

reader Jacob_UK said...

I really appreciate your analysis of queen bee professors and female graduate worker bees, Lubos. However, this may probably be generalized to include the way female bosses operate in mixed gender work groups in a trivial way. Queen bee bosses seldom seem to take kindly to lower ranking female worker bees in such environments but seem instead to favor male worker bees.

I suspect that this boils down to the trivial classical hearsay/sociological observation that females seldom excel in projects that require cooperation - although I myself would be able to report to the contrary when it comes to my own smart female physics grad students. They're really good at working together. But for the queen bee physics professor vis-à-vis female worker bee students situation we'd have to turn elsewhere because we've got no such dichotomy here.

And all of my female grad students ferociously hate genderistas of both sexes. Couldn't ask for more.

reader John Archer said...

"Dude just called you me and everyone here a right wing wacko serial killer...."

I'm not sure what that means but I can kind of see how one might construe it as a vile accusation against my good dude self. In which case I'm shocked! :)

I would do—and intend—no such thing.

In response, I can say only that I did not make that suggestion but was merely attempting to give general offence in order to test Disqus's down-vote facility, doubts about which had been raised further down the thread.

On further reflection I think my experimental set-up leaves something to be desired as the interpretation of the result—so far anyway—strikes me now as leaving too much scope for ambiguity. Back to the drawing board!

I hope that clarifies things. No offence intended — except to general sensibilities of course. :)

reader Robertson Smithwoods said...

But there may be a rational motive to women scientists' unwillingness to mentor younger women. A female scientist has a certain "scarcity value" in an environment of preferential hiring. To create more and younger rivals is to dilute one's one marketplace value.

This hypothesis is testable. Look for the same reluctance to mentor in cases of racial preference. Compare with scientists of ethnicities where there is no political pressure towards preference. The hypothesis predicts the effect only for ethnicities where there is institutional pressure to hire and promote and give undeserved prizes.

reader yonason said...

Not copying your search, btw. I've been using W.A. for several years now. Have you checked out Greenland Temperature? It will return results for "central Greenland." Select the "All" option to see how temps have dramatically changed, and it isn't in the Warmists favor. ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Do you really mean that the percentage of gays among academic men is above 50 percent? ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Interesting. I asked the Feminist and Bitches Task Force to feature a comment, and they picked yours. ;-)

reader Casper said...

What about tit size? Have they done a study on this variable yet? Or are all the women titless in these groupings?

reader zlop said...

Geopolitical conflict -- Countries controlled by the Anglo-American bankers versus the BRICS (25% of global trade)

Per Karen Hudes analysis, to avoid WW III,
Germany must remain loyal to U$.

reader petersen said...

No, I was not precise. I wanted to say that the ratio is more than the proverbial 4% (not fifty, though - that would almost be funny ;-) )
My guess is roughly 10~20% gays among mathematicians and physicists.

reader anna v said...

Well, as I am a woman physicist I suppose I may say my two cents.

I have many women physicist friends and we have published papers together ofcourse,but this does not mean much in the HEP collaborations. In these collaborations each experimentalist who wants to do an analysis picks up a subject different from another either male or female and may have a graduate student working with him/her , but that is another story.

The only female queen bee I have been in the same collaboration with is Sau Lan Wu, she headed a group from Wisconsin in ALEPH with some 10 or 12 graduate students. I do not remember any females,but may be wrong. At the time she was very assertive . It was her group that pushed the ALEPH paper on the 114GeV Higgs with four events. Neither did the men heading a group within ALEPH collaborate with other group leaders though on specific papers. Too much hierarchy and turfs of analysis were separated.

All the female experimental physicists in our collaboration I can remember did not collaborate with same rank either male or female. I think as a group women physicists are very competitive because in order to reach a high enough level my experience was that your work had to show up as yours clearly. At the time, and I am speaking of thirty years ago, my experience was that a girl/woman in HEP experimental physics had to work twice as hard as a boy/man in the same rank. ( well there was always the classical other way too :) ) so that her work would show.

If one were not assertive enough it was very easy for the work to be appropriated by a colleague under the pronoun "we" . As there were ten more male physicists as female at the time the probability of a collaboration on a specific subject with a male was much higher , and women tended to be wary. The tendency was to give twice the weight to the male in a duo of equal rank than a female. I think this warrines carried over to women women of equal rank.

Now young women physicists would go to male group leaders more easily than to women because of the extra help the sexual difference makes in all human contacts:
Example, out of context but interesting. When building up our group, in the 1970's the male group leader ( but not the better physicist, my female friend was better with a better degree, but the group leader was male ) and I had to run around the ministries to chase after our financing. We would go together, male and female. We would look at the door of the official/clerk we had to convince. If it were a woman, my male colleague would go and argue. If it were a man, I would go. Worked like a charm and we got our financing.

for whatever it is worth.

reader Eugene S said...

Henry Kissinger agrees with every word I've written in these threads! Why, I should sue for copyright infringement.

reader Shannon said...

Well done Eugene!
FYI, a lot of other opinion makers have been saying exactly the same thing before you and Kissinger.
Ron Paul is saying exactly the same thing as Marine Le Pen. I agree 100% ie a confederation in Ukraine might be the best outcome. Kissinger's opinion on Crimea is bullshit.

reader Rick said...

Interesting response. Thanks. Love your blog. And Cheers to you!

reader Eugene S said...

Meanwhile, in the Oval Office...

reader Shannon said...

Share a joint?

reader cynholt said...

Here's another quick-witted comeback from Putin:

reader cynholt said...

What's actually happening here, AA, is that our Neocon President is taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to restart the Cold War.

Those scary Russkies provide a much better opportunity to shore up the Military Industrial Complex, and to quiet concerns about the US National Spy State, than a few thousand ragtag Islamic extremists ever could.

reader Nov said...

Anyone else think Russia is at war with Capitalism? Their goal is to get Ukraine, as an independent country, into Russia's up and coming Eurasian Union. In which in the midst of the falling euro and dollar, Russia will continue to ramp up their Eurasion Union by recruiting other countries to join using a particular appeal of power and infalliblity. There would be no difference in potential between the European Union and the Eurasian Union if the Eurasian Union was to remain capitalistic. It would be considerable for the Eurasian Union to move to socialism in the midst of economic frailty in Europe. This would be a new chance at socialism, and would ensure strength to all participants and citizens with inherent "value", unlike the American prominence of economic disperity between socioeconomic classes. With the surety of a new socialistic union, citizens under the europen union, moreso the lower classes, would raise issue with being born into the lower class - and would vote for the equality of personal value that socialism (done correctly) can offer. This concept could make the Eurasion Union very strong, very large, very quickly. All of this with Russia at the helm and a foothold within the middle east - Russia could have a huge future if there is socialistic underwriting in the current events.

Anyone else share similiar thoughts?

reader cynholt said...

Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of Americans are unaware that the US has been fomenting and funding a coup in Ukraine for over twenty years. Most Americans have no understanding or knowledge that the U.S. has assisted in the overthrow of countless democratically elected governments in the past decades.

These realities are concealed from Americans by a corporate media that sets the (extraordinarily narrow) parameters for discussion by censoring all contradictory information.

I awoke the other morning to CBS radio news. Their coverage was dominated by warnings from President Obama about Russian aggression and warnings that Putin was committing war crimes. Calls for sanctions against Russia for his aggression were highlighted.

The fact that the US has poured over $5 billion into funding revolution in the Ukraine was not mentioned. Nor was it mentioned that the US had been running war games in Latvia and Lithuania in recent years. Or that the US is running war games with South Korea aimed at North Korea (which shares a border with Russia and China). Or that the US is encircling Russia with offensive first strike missile capability.

Reporter Greg Palast calls the US mainstream media the "Electronic Berlin Wall."

Until the mainstream media is torn down and the citizens of the US properly informed, the American people will continue to be easily manipulated and deceived. Until that time, Americans will continue to live under a blanket of lies and half-truths.

reader Bernd Felsche said...


There aren't enough white runners in the 100 metre finals of the Olympic games.


reader Carl Brannen said...

Beset analysis I've seen on the fall of the Soviet Union is that
Reagan was president when the CIA pulled it off, and that the CIA did it
by manipulating the price of oil to be so low that the USSR couldn't
afford US wheat. The US then raised the price so as to make it more
difficult for China which is a big importer (and not very efficient),
but then dropped it again when Russia invaded Georgia. The book on this
subject was written before the Georgia incident. "The Oil Card: Global
Economic Warfare in the 21st Century" by James R. Norman. This was all
done through influencing the boards of directors of the major oil

And that was a wonderful post by the ambassador. Wish more people could read the analysis on this website of the Ukranian situation. I see a lot of knee jerk emotional crap opinions here in the US.

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