New Swedish study: merits of recently appointed female professors massively overvalued

May 14, 2020

On the popular view, there are fewer female than male professors because women’s qualifications weigh lighter than men’s. Yet, according to a striking new study from Umeå University in Sweden the situation is very much the opposite: in the period 2009-2014, new male professors in medicine had 64 percent more publications and no less than 260 percent more citations than new female professors. The study was rejected by five journals without refereeing for being considered, among other things, “inappropriate”, until it was finally published after peer-review in the journal Studies in Higher Education.

Despite several decades of active so-called gender equality work, only 27 percent of Sweden’s professors are women. This perceived political failure has motivated the Swedish feminist government to introduce increasingly draconic policies on state universities to counter what it sees as systematic discrimination of women at the professorial level.

“The number of publications and how many times they are cited are central when assessing scientific competence. Thus, if women are disadvantaged in the appointment of professors, they should have more publications than men among all appointed professors. We saw the opposite,”

Contrary to what the researchers predicted, the threshold has effectively been lower for women between 2009 and 2014, which coincides with a much larger increase in the number of female professors (78 percent) than male professors (28 percent). “Possible explanations could be the application of the principle of always choosing from under-represented gender if differences in qualifications are small, or some other form of discrimination to meet the government’s goal of rapidly increasing the proportion of female professors,” says Guy Madison.

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