First-mover advantage explains gender disparities in physics citations

Mounting evidence suggests that publications and citations of scholars in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) suffer from gender biases. In this paper, we study the physics community, a core STEM field in which women are still largely underrepresented and where these gender disparities persist. To reveal such inequalities, we compare the citations received by papers led by men and women that cover the same topics in a comparable way. To do that, we devise a robust statistical measure of similarity between publications that enables us to detect pairs of similar papers. Our findings indicate that although papers written by women tend to have lower visibility in the citation network, pairs of similar papers written by men and women receive comparable attention when corrected for the time of publication. These analyses suggest that gender disparity is closely related to the first-mover and cumulative advantage that men have in physics, and is not an intentional act of discrimination towards women.

View the full report here.

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