November 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 8

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Gender in the Field

ASA Department of Research on the Discipline and the Profession

Do female sociologists concentrate heavily on gender and family in their scholarly work? Is their work limited to these fields and do they fail to contribute to other disciplinary subfields? A recent widely cited study by Carl Bergstrom, Jevin West, and their colleagues used the online academic archival system, JSTOR, to analyze gender differences in both the numbers and topic areas of journal articles across disciplinary fields. The principal investigators found that women’s publications were concentrated in a relatively narrow array of subfields,based on their PIs’ use of a topic-area coding algorithm. In sociology, according to the data produced by this algorithm, women’s publications were clustered into a limited number of subfields—principally gender and family (see “Scholarly Publishing’s Gender Gap” in The Chronicle of Higher Education at chronicle.com/article/The-Hard Numbers-Behind/135236).

This study may underestimate the contribution of women to the entire discipline. In sociology, women participate in a wide array of subfields, although the subfields (as measured by section membership in the American Sociological Association) with the highest concentration of women members are Sex and Gender (86.0 percent); Bodies and Embodiment (79.6 percent); Race, Class, and Gender (77.1 percent); Children and Youth (74.2 percent); and Family (74.1 percent). The subfields with the lowest percentage of women are Mathematical Sociology (17.9 percent); Rationality and Society (22.4 percent); and Evolution, Biology, and Sociology (22.8 percent).

The table below shows the 10 ASA sections where the gender gap is less than 4.0 percent. The Sociology of Culture, the largest section of the Association (with 1,157 members in 2012), is evenly split, with 50.5 percent women. Membership in Collective Behavior and Social Movements; Social Psychology; Global and Transnational Sociology; Crime, Law, and Deviance; Development; and Communications and Information Systems is also evenly divided between men and women. There are 1,898 female members in the combined sections of Sex and Gender, Children and Youth, and Family, which together represents 14.4 percent of women’s section memberships. In contrast, 3,193 women (or 21.7 percent of all women’s section memberships) belong to sections in which men are just as likely to participate as women.

Beyond their publications, women in these sections are likely to contribute to advancing the discipline through teaching, administering sections, presenting papers, and mentoring students.

Gender Equity in sociology subfields: 2012

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It is also worth considering the possibility that the algorithm applied by Bergstrom et al. might have mis-categorized many women’s (and men’s) articles that applied a gender or family lens to topics such as culture, social movements, crime, law and deviance, development, and others. Recent examples of such articles could include “Do Women Managers Ameliorate Gender Differences in Wages? Evidence from a Large Grocery Retailer” (Penner, Toro-Tulla, and Huffman in Summer 2012 Sociological Perspectives); “Education and Work-Family Conflicts” (Shieman and Glavin in the June 2011 Social Forces); “Religion and Sexual Behaviors: Islamic Cultures, Religious Affiliation, and Sex Outside of Marriage” (Adamczyk and Hayes, October 2012 American Sociological Review); “Singlehood, Waiting, and the Sociology of Time” (Lahad, March 2012 Sociological Forum); “Beyond the Schoolyard: The Role of Parenting Logics, Financial Resources, and Social Institutions in the Social Class Gap in Structured Activity Participation” (Bennett, Lutz, and Jayaram in the April 2012 Sociology of Education); and “Gender Differences in Immigrant Health: The Case of Mexican and Middle Easter Immigrants (Ghazal Read and Reynolds in the March 2012 Journal of Health and Social Behavior).

The data in this article suggest that although women have a strong professional interest in gender and family issues, their contributions to the field of sociology are far from limited to these two subfields.

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