Evidence for gendered engagement with posts authored by women scientists in social media

Evidence for gendered engagement with posts authored by women scientists in social media

Author: Yael Rozenblum – Technion, Israel


  • Ayelet Baram-Tsabari – Technion, Israel
  • Keren Dalyot – Technion, Israel
  • Ella Lachman – University of California Berkeley, Little Big Science, United States

Women are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as physics, and popular media representations of female scientists tend to be lower ranked, emphasizing “feminine’ qualities rather than professional achievements (Chimba & Kitzinger, 2009). This study aims to characterize gendered patterns of public engagement on social networks – one of the most powerful science meditation agents today, asking whether there are different patterns of audience engagement with posts authored by female and male scientists on a popular science Facebook page.

Facebook is the largest social media platform in Israel and Little, Big Science (LBS) is the largest independent Facebook page for popular science in Hebrew, with more than 130,000 followers. We collected 166 posts published between 2016-2018 and written by either a female (n=6) or male scientist (n=10). All 10,066 comments to these posts were extracted for analysis. Analysis followed 2-steps: first coding the posts and then the comments. Coding was done by two research assistants and included satisfactory inter-coder reliability measures. Codebook was based on Amarasekara and Grant’s (2018) work and included categories such as hostile or positive attitude towards the post writer, text or Facebook page, relevance to the topic of the post and more. Chi Square test was used for statistical analysis.

Significant differences were found in both the relevence and the sentiment of the comments: (1) More comments to female scientists were categorized as not relevant to the topic of the post; (2) Female scientists receive more positive, hostile and advices on how to write better, and less neutral comments than males.

Our findings echo the literature on “Mansplaining”, in which males explain to females on the assumption that they are more proficient than females on the subject (Koc-Michalska et al, 2019).

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Technology