Gender Balance in ASA Activities
Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Senior Statistician, The RAND Corporation; Pam Craven, ASA Executive Secretary; Mari Palta, Professor, Departments of Population Health Sciences and Biostatistics and Medical Informatics at the University of Wisconsin— Madison, and Dalene Stangl, Professor, Duke University, and Chair, Committee on Women in Statistics
This report explores the gender balance in a variety of activities supported by the American Statistical Association. It highlights areas in which gender disparities have subsided and in which they persist. Results on the latter suggest that ASA sections in which women are proportionately represented are not well represented in the ASA awards structure. It suggests that offering awards related to statistics in the life and social sciences may improve the gender balance in awards given by the ASA.
Presently, the ASA database contains records for 17,873 members. Of these, 3,202 declined to report their gender. Among the 14,671 remaining, 4,694—or 32.0%—are women. This compares to just below 30% in 2005 and 33.5% in 2008. The percentage of members who are women has not changed much in the last seven years. According to a survey of earned doctorates (NSF/NIH/USED/NEH), the percentage of women among those earning PhDs in statistics/biostatistics from 1997 to 2006 was 41%. According to the most recent published table from the same survey, that percentage is up (44.7%).
The percentage of members who are women differs considerably by age and highest degree status. Women members tend to be younger and are less likely to hold doctoral degrees. Overall, among 14,416 ASA members who reported degree status and gender, 56.6% hold a doctoral degree and 32.8% hold a master’s as their highest degree. Among women, the corresponding percentages are 43.4% and 38.9%. Conversely, 40.5% of members with a master’s degree are women, and 26% of members with a PhD degree are women.
Among men, 57% of ASA members are 45 years or older, while only 33.7% of women are. Overall, this indicates a slight aging overall as compared to 2008, as then 54% of all members were 45 or older compared to the present 57%. Table 1 shows the percentage of women in different groups defined by age and degree.
The percentage of women among ASA members age <45 with doctoral degrees at 39.2% is similar to the percentage (41%) of women among PhD recipients between 1997–2006.
The percentages of women also vary by place of employment. Of members employed in academia, 27.4% are women; in business and industry, 28.4%; and in federal government, 31.6%. The lowest percentage of women (24%) is found among those self‐employed, and the highest (38.6%) is among retired members.
Some indication of women’s interest areas can be gleaned from membership in ASA sections. Table 2 indicates the percentages who are women in each section together with the total number of members belonging to the section. There is a tendency for the percentage of women to be higher in sections with more members. The sections rank similarly in terms of percent women among those 45 and above with doctoral degrees.
Participation in ASA Activities
Women are well represented in the ASA organizational leadership. Presently, one-third of the ASA Executive Committee is made up of women, and the ASA Board of Directors is 38% women (6 out of 16).
Women have less representation in ASA publishing activities. The Committee on Publications has four women (out of 23), amounting to about 17%. The ASA’s flagship journal, Journal of the American Statistical Association, has 23% (14 out of 60) women on the editorial board (including editors and associate editors) for Theory and Methods, 18% (7 out of 40) for Application and Case Studies, and 60% (9 out of 15) for Reviews. In August 2010, these percentages were 18%, 21%, and 33%, respectively. There may be considerable variation in editorial boards from year to year. It appears both older and younger statisticians have the opportunity to participate on editorial boards and the expected percentage of women would be close to the 25% of women among members with doctoral degrees.
Another indicator of ASA activity is participation in JSM. In 2012, 24% of the program committee members (9 out of 37) were women. In 2013, that percentage will be 45. Another indicator of both professional regard and involvement is giving an invited talk or chairing an invited session. Counting women chairs and speakers in all invited sessions on the Monday of JSM 2012 yields about 30% women, indicating a participation that corresponds well with overall membership percent. On the other hand, not a single one of seven keynote speakers listed in the 2012 program is a woman. This is not the first year this has happened (also happened in 2010); the 2011 JSM program included a woman as keynote speaker as in other years.
ASA Fellow Selection
There has been recent interest in how many women receive recognition through society awards. The Committee on Women in Statistics (COWIS) has long tracked the percentage of nominations and selections of women as ASA fellows. The two graphs in Figure 1 present these results since 1998. Importantly, the years with high percentages of women among total nominations were those when ASA leadership or COWIS members exerted special effort to nominate women. In the years between 2005 and 2009, the percentage slipped as efforts waned. The second panel demonstrates that women, once nominated, had similar or slightly higher rates of success.
The overall percentage of ASA members who are fellows is 1.2% for women and 5.5% for men. Although there are 58 members with associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or other degrees who are fellows, the majority (1,098) hold doctoral degrees. Among doctoral degree holders, 15.2% of men and 9.3% of women are fellows. Among doctoral degree holders younger than 45, 4.0% are fellows among both men and women. At age 45 and older, 19.8% of men and 16.6% of women are fellows. Table 3 shows the percentage, by five-year age groups above 45, of men and women who are fellows among members with doctorate degrees.
We see that percentages are quite similar for ages 50–65. It must be borne in mind, however, that data from older ages reflect not only the fellow selection process, but also the decision to remain a member.
Other ASA Awards
The ASA grants several other prestigious awards. Gender data on awardees from a number of societies including the ASA were collected by the AWIS AWARDS project in collaboration with ASA staff. ASA awards and percentages of awardees who were women are reproduced in Table 4. We see that the percentage of women among recipients of ASA awards is quite low and has not increased since the last decade. The numbers also reflect a general finding of the AWIS study that women are more likely to receive awards recognizing service than scientific achievement. It was noted by the study that ASA award committee members are presently 44.4% women. Extensive research on implicit stereotyping cited in the AWIS AWRD workshop does indicate that just including women on award selection committees is necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure unbiased consideration, free of subconscious gender expectations. Perhaps even more importantly, comparing the list of awards to the list of sections indicates that predominant present interest areas of both men and women in the ASA, such as biometrics and social statistics, are not well captured by awards.