Many studies have shown that both minority and women scientists face disadvantages in reaching the highest levels of their careers.

So it would make sense that minority women would face a “double bind” that would particularly disadvantage them.

But a new study using a massive database of scientific articles suggests that minority women actually face what might be called a “one-and-a-half bind.” They are still worse off than other groups, but their disadvantage is less than the disadvantage of being black or Hispanic plus the disadvantage of being a woman.

“There is less disadvantage than you would have thought if you simply added the penalties of being a minority and being a woman,” said Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University.

The study appears in the May 2018 issue of AEA Papers and Proceedings.

The findings are particularly timely now, said study co-author Gerald Marschke, associate professor of economics at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

“The underrepresentation of women and minorities is a huge concern to policymakers and is the focus of many commissions and initiatives,” Marschke said.

The researchers used an innovative method to overcome one of the biggest issues in studying the careers of minority women.

“Because of the small number of minorities and the small number of women in some science careers, it is hard to study them, particularly with people who are members of both groups,” Weinberg said.

The researchers found a way around this problem by using a convention of the biomedical sciences to their advantage. In the journals where these scientists publish their results, the last author listed on an article is the principal investigator who supported the work and has the highest level of prestige.

“Being listed as the last author is the pinnacle of the research career and has a lot of status that goes along with it,” Weinberg said. So the researchers compared how many minorities and women were listed as last author on papers compared to white men.

The study used a massive database of 486,644 articles with two to nine authors published in medical journals by U.S. scientists between 1946 and 2009. Computer software categorized author names by race, ethnicity and gender.

Read more at Ohio State University