CV data shows that fewer women academics are collaborating with men
A new paper has found that the #MeToo movement has caused a significant decline in the productivity of women academics because fewer are collaborating with their male colleagues. This fall is most acute in universities “where the perceived risk of sexual harassment accusations for men is high”, resulting in a chilling effect on cross-sex collaboration.
Using CV data to track collaborations between economists over six years around #MeToo (2015-2020), researcher Marina Gertsberg discovered that junior female academics started 0.7 fewer projects per year than before. 60% of this decline can be attributed to a decrease in collaborations with new male co-authors, which broadly correlates with a reduction in growth of the co-author network.
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Gertsberg attributes this fall to men unwilling to collaborate with women due to fears of accusations of sexual harassment. In fact, several surveys have found that men believe they are more vulnerable to false allegations of sexual harassment in a post-MeToo landscape, and are perhaps managing this perceived risk by reducing their exposure to women.
#MeToo’s original goal was to improve workplace conditions for women by holding men accountable for sexual misconduct. The response resulted in public allegations that brought down several high-profile individuals.
Early cases included William V Harris, the well-established Columbia history professor who retired as part of a settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit in late 2017; and prominent Harvard Professor, Jorge I. Domínguez, who was accused of sexual harassment by up to 18 women.
This new research is significant because it highlights that the #MeToo movement had negative effects on women too. Junior researchers depend on collaboration with colleagues to build their reputation and qualify for tenure. But a reduction in interactions and professional collaborations “will exacerbate inequality between the career opportunities of men and women,” the paper concludes.
The MeToo movement intended to improve the workplace for women, but it may have had the unintended consequence of stalling their careers.