Academic Twitter's Gender ImbalanceHistorians in the News
tags: gender, academia, Twitter, sexism
Female academics have about half the followers of men on Twitter and wield otherwise diminished influence there, according to a new study. The analysis pertains to medicine, but women across fields say the findings ring true.
Women on social media face disproportionate levels of harassment compared to men. A new study says that female academics also have disproportionately fewer Twitter followers, likes and retweets than their male counterparts on the platform, regardless of their Twitter activity levels or professional rank.
Women were also more likely than men to reciprocate relationships with followers and follow back, and to follow other women.
Observers of gender dynamics, casual or expert, probably won’t be surprised by the findings. But they do have implications for scientific impact and careers and the general sharing of information. And because this study, in particular, involved health policy and health services researchers, there are implications for public health. So it’s important to understand what’s happening, and why -- as best we can, since the study was more quantitative analysis than a deep dive into the psychology of Twitter.
The short answer, said lead author Jane M. Zhu, assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a senior adjunct fellow in health economics at the University of Pennsylvania, is that the “same power dynamics that exist in the real-world office settings seem to exist online.”
The slightly longer answer, she said, is that while women may be supporting other women and “amplifying each other’s professional voices online, men may still be considered the more authoritative voices, even within the same academic rank.”
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