When Men and Women Work Together, Men Get All the Credit

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Anne Case and Angus Deaton recently wrote a paper that’s gotten a lot of attention. One of the minor ways it’s gotten attention is in the way a lot of people talk about it: as the Deaton paper, or the Deaton/Case paper, despite the fact that it’s traditional in economics to list authors alphabetically.

Is this just because Angus Deaton recently won a Nobel prize? That probably didn’t hurt. But Justin Wolfers points today to a new working paper that suggests this is a widespread problem: when women coauthor papers in economics with men, it’s the men who get all the credit. The study is by Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate at Harvard, who examined economics papers and tenure decisions at elite universities over the past 40 years. The chart on the right comes from her paper, and it shows the basic state of play. For men, it didn’t matter if they coauthored papers. They got tenure at about the same rate regardless of whether they coauthored or solo authored. For women, it mattered a lot. Solo authoring 80 percent of their papers doubled their chance of getting tenure compared to co-authoring most of their papers:

The coauthoring penalty is almost entirely driven from coauthoring with men. An additional coauthored paper with a man has zero marginal effect on tenure. Papers in which there is at least one other woman have a smaller effect on tenure for women than for men (8% vs. 3.5%) but still have a positive marginal impact.

Roughly speaking, Sarsons examines several possible explanations for this (maybe women are genuinely less qualified, maybe they pair up more often with senior people, etc.), and her conclusion is fairly simple: It’s none of that stuff. The ability of the female economists is, in fact, just as high as their male counterparts. Nevertheless, when women work in mixed-gender teams, people tend to think men did all of the actual work. Women get essentially no credit at all. The only way for them to get credit is to work on their own or with other women. This has broad implications:

Many occupations require group work. The tech industry, for example, prides itself on collaboration. In such male-dominated fields, however, group work in which a single output is produced could sustain the leaky pipeline if employers rely on stereotypes to attribute credit….Employers will rely primarily on their priors and women will be promoted at even lower rates. Bias, whether conscious or subconscious, can therefore have significant implications for the gender gap in promotion decisions.

Note to managers: be aware of this! Just because the guys who work for you are more aggressive about touting their work doesn’t mean they actually did more of it. Dig a little deeper and figure out who really did most of the work if you’re not sure. You might be surprised.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate