Stag parties linger: continued gender bias in a female-rich scientific discipline

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49682. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049682. Epub 2012 Nov 21.


Discussions about the underrepresentation of women in science are challenged by uncertainty over the relative effects of the lack of assertiveness by women and the lack of recognition of them by male colleagues because the two are often indistinguishable. They can be distinguished at professional meetings, however, by comparing symposia, which are largely by invitation, and posters and other talks, which are largely participant-initiated. Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%). We found a similar gender bias from men in symposia from the past 12 annual meetings of the American Society of Primatologists. The bias is surprising given that women are the numerical majority in primatology and have achieved substantial peer recognition in this discipline.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Physical / methods*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Publications
  • Research / trends
  • Sexism*
  • Societies
  • Workforce

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.