#OldBoysClub: Twitter and gender disparities in health services research

Outside of the brick and mortar walls of academic institutions—and conferences attended by researchers—there is an invisible conversation happening. Academic Twitter, as it’s affectionately known, is a world unto itself. Yet, it turns out, there are ways in which it bears a striking resemblance to the familiar “old boys’ club.”

stick figure rendering of a man on a soap box with a dialogue box, a person one step below staying silent.

In a new JAMA Internal Medicine study of Twitter users, LDI Executive Director Rachel Werner, Senior Fellows Jane Zhu and Raina Merchant, and colleagues find that female health services and policy researchers had considerably less reach and influence on the social media platform than their male counterparts. The study suggests that the Twitterverse may be plagued by some of the same gender dynamics as traditional academic forums.

Offline, gender bias and disparities between men and women in academia is readily apparent. Women in academic medicine report experiences ranging from subtle messages that downplay their accomplishments (for example, being called by a first name instead of a professional title) to discrimination and sexual harassment.

This climate may explain, in part, why women have difficulty finding effective mentors and receive lower levels of institutional resources. As a result, their careers trail behind men: they’re less likely to author original research or guest editorials (particularly as first author) in major journals, speak at national medical conferences, receive prestigious awards or assume leadership positions.

Read more at Penn LDI.

This article is by Melissa E. Ostroff.