Despite documented benefits of women mentoring newcomers, we argue that stable social hierarchies carry an evaluation disadvantage for senior women that transcends to impair their protégés’ trajectories. Identifying 4,556 formally mentored scientists with competitive early career funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), we document a citation discount of 10% on the average paper published by women- relative to men-mentored protégés. Accounting for the underlying quality and content of the work, we show that this evaluation discount carries over from papers co-authored with the mentor to protégé’s independent work. Consistent with theory of cumulative disadvantage in stable social systems, we find a widening citation differential for protégés of women versus men as careers progress. We show that the citation discount for women-mentored protégés stems primarily from their mentors’ network of citers. The mentors’ network of citers continues to contribute over 60% of citations to protégés’ work, even if the work is no longer co-authored with the mentor and published several years after formal mentorship. The stability of the gendered citation networks thus provides the ground for citation differentials afflicting protégés mentored by women relative to men. These findings raise concerns about an unbiased discourse on the best scientific contributions and about systemic limitations to women serving as mentors. More generally, the findings also hold implications for status-driven markets and the evolution of social networks.
Co-authored with Leo Schmallenbach and Karin Hoisl (both University of Mannheim)
Contact person: Elisabeth Hofmeister
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