Catie J. Holshouser, Davidson College ’22
Laura E. Sockol, Ph.D.
Davidson College, Psychology Department
A Note on Methodology
The use of authors’ first names as an indicator of gender has been widely used to assess gender differences in publication, such as the representation of women as first and senior authors (e.g., Hart, Frangou & Perlis, 2019), citation impact (e.g., Thelwall, 2020), and whether studies include evaluations of sex/gender differences (e.g., Nielsen, Andersen, Schiebinger & Schnneider, 2017). In the United States, forenames tend to be highly gendered, and the majority of names are given nearly exclusively to boys or girls (as indicated by the child’s sex assigned at birth). Thus, when information regarding authors’ self-identified gender is not available, it has become common to infer authors’ gender identity from their first names, either using human raters (e.g., McSweeney, Donahoe & Swindell, 2000) or machine learning approaches (e.g., Santamaríía & Mihaljević, 2018).
Although widely used, this methodology has also been criticized. We acknowledge that this methodology has significant limitations. Although most names are strongly associated with a single gender, a minority of names are unisex (given to children assigned both male and female with comparable frequency during the same period of time), and not all children who are given highly-gendered names are assigned the sex to which the name commonly corresponds (e.g., “A Boy Named Sue”). This approach also provides no means by which to evaluate the presence of non-binary authors and others whose identities do not correspond with oversimplified conceptualizations of gender that assume that all individuals have a single, stable gender identity that can reliably be classified in one of two categories.
In the absence of feasible alternatives for determining the gender of authors and individuals in other roles in the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, we have chosen to use this approach as a way to generate valuable information regarding women’s participation in the organization over time. We were excited to see that ABCT asked authors to self-report gender identity for this year’s virtual conference, and hope that this data will be collected in future years at the point of submission. We welcome suggestions for ways to improve our approach to this work, and would be excited to develop collaborations that would help us address the limitations of our current methodology.