Female authors are underrepresented as sole and first authors and as members of authorship teams in readings for undergraduate college courses, research finds.

“Women are underrepresented as authors on course materials across disciplines, limiting the exposure of students to women experts,” says Jenine Harris, professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and coauthor of a paper on the syllabi gender gap in PLOS ONE.

“And it is completely fixable,” says coauthor and professor Amy Eyler. “This paper helps to increase awareness of the disparity, so instructors can intentionally create a more equitable reading list.”

From a list of courses offered in 2018-19 at Washington University, the authors selected a stratified random sample of course syllabi from four disciplines: humanities; social science; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and other. They coded the gender of course instructors and course reading authors using the genderize application programming interface, which helped categorize authorship by gender. They then examined representation of female authors at the reading, course, and discipline level using descriptive statistics and data visualization.

The final sample included 2,435 readings from 129 unique courses. The mean percentage of female authors per reading was 34.1%. Some 822 (33.8%) of the readings were female-led (meaning a female first or sole author). Female authorship varied by discipline, with the highest percentage of female-led readings in social science (40%).

To aid faculty in identifying readings by underrepresented groups more easily, the authors recommend the development of reading collections that faculty can draw from.

Read the full article about female authors in college courses by Neil Schoenherr at Futurity.