Career advancement slower for women in entomology, study finds


Women pursuing careers in entomology face persistent challenges getting jobs compared to men, according to a new study analyzing the career paths of recent doctoral entomology graduates. A variety of underlying factors, some unique to entomology and others common to all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, may be at play, says the researcher who conducted the study. (Photo by Nazareth College via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Women pursuing careers in entomology face persistent challenges getting jobs compared to men, according to a new study analyzing the career paths of recent doctoral entomology graduates.

Among entomologists who earned a doctorate between 2001 and 2018, significantly more men than women held industry positions as technical representatives and researchers in 2021. In all job categories, women were only ahead of men. men than in non-academic academic posts. Meanwhile, men published significantly more research articles than women during their graduate programs and then achieved higher measures of publication volume and influence.

Entomologist Karen Walker, Ph.D., retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, conducted the analysis, published Oct. 12 in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. She says these findings should be cause for concern for university entomology programs that seek to be engines of opportunity for a variety of aspiring professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

“Why should a woman enroll in an entomology program if she knows or discovers that she will be less successful in finding a job than if she enrolls in another STEM program?” said Walker. “What will happen to university entomology programs if enrollment drops? »

The new study builds on Walker’s previous research on the gender gap in entomology. In 2018, she reported that men outnumbered women in college and federal entomology jobs by about a 3-to-1 ratio, even though women had earned more than 40% of entomology doctorates in the previous decade. .

Her latest analysis sheds light on the apparent barriers to career advancement that women face in entomology. For example, 18% of men in the study found a job the year they graduated, compared to 12% of women. Meanwhile, five years after graduation, far more men than women had secured employment as professors of entomology or in the United States Department of Agriculture. And in 2021, while 17 men in the study had achieved full professor status in university entomology departments, only one woman had achieved it.

A variety of underlying factors, some unique to entomology and others common to all STEM fields, may be at play, Walker says. Her research revealed a clear dynamic that gives men in entomology an edge: As graduate students, the men in the study published more of their research in academic journals than the women.

Men published an average of 3.5 research papers during their graduate studies, while women published an average of 2.5 papers. Similarly, men were first authors of 2.3 articles on average, while women were first authors of 1.4 articles on average.

This advantage led to higher average scores for men than for women, as measured by their H-index, which compares the volume of articles published by an author and the level of citations those articles received. (For example, an author with an H-index of 5 has published at least five research papers that each received five citations in other publications.) Of the study graduates hired into university faculty positions, the H indices of men in 2021 exceeded those of women in entomology departments (average H index of 19.5 for men against 15.2 for women) or outside entomology departments (16.6 against 11.8 ).

As in many fields, higher education and the first professional years often coincide with the creation of a family, which can disproportionately affect the careers of women. Walker’s findings illustrate how this can play out in entomology.

“I think female students and early career women in entomology should try to build relationships with as many potential collaborators as possible and post as often as possible,” says Walker. “If I take a break for parental leave or family leave, I would encourage women to maintain as many connections as possible with other scientists and to continue doing research as much as possible. It could be very difficult, unfortunately. But the alternative often seems to be that the woman is seen by potential employers as if she doesn’t have the qualifications for a job simply because she took a break to focus on her family.

Over the past 15 years, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) has seen a significant increase in the number of female members, primarily at the student, transitioning student, and early career member levels. But retention among women was less than among men. Notably, however, female entomologists have risen to the highest levels of organizational leadership in recent years; ESA members have elected a female entomologist to serve as ESA President for four of the past seven years and each of the next three years.

Among efforts to improve gender equity within entomology, ESA instituted a strong ethics statement with a code of conduct and a reporting process aimed at eliminating harassment at its events, supported a Women in Entomology breakfast at its annual conference, increased its funding to support childcare for conference attendees, and provided private spaces for nursing mothers at its events. In 2022, the Company also launched a salary benchmarking program that will analyze compensation practices across various job types and employee demographics.

“Dr. Walker’s research shows that we have a lot of work to do to build an equitable field of entomology,” said ESA President Jessica Ware, Ph.D. a clear example of why equity work is so important. At ESA, we want entomologists from all walks of life to succeed and develop our science, and we celebrate the diversity of gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation found among our members.

Press release originally published on October 12, 2022by the Entomological Society of America via EurekAlert!


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