S.B. Linek1, R. Jäschke2, C.P. Hoffmann3

1ZBW Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (GERMANY)
2Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (GERMANY)
3University of Leipzig (GERMANY)
Within scholarly communication, social media such as social networking sites or microblogging services like Twitter facilitates more divers and flexible forms of academic communication, community development; and networking. In light of ongoing discussions on the gender gap in science, the question arises if and how gender influences the academic use of social media. So far little is known about gender-related differences in the academic use of social media. In this paper we focus on the special use case of Twitter and investigated gender-related differences in the academic networking of computer scientists.

This study analyzed a sample of 850 Twitter accounts of professors and PhD students. Independent factors were the gender and the academic status of the account owner. The activity of the account was considered as control variable. Dependent variables were the number of researcher followers and the number of reciprocal researcher followers (i.e., number of followers that follow back in the sense of mutual following). Thereby, reciprocal (mutual) following was conceptualized as an indicator for a stronger community development motive. Furthermore, different subgroups of followers with respect to gender, academic status and reciprocity of the following behavior (e.g., reciprocal female professor followers) were considered for explorative analyses to gain deeper insights.

Overall, the two-way MANCOVA revealed no significant gender difference for the total number of researcher followers. However, for the number of reciprocal followers, we found that the accounts of females had significantly more reciprocal followers. Also the explorative analyses of the different subgroups of followers strengthen the finding that females establish more reciprocal following relations. In addition, the pattern of the findings for the subgroups of followers suggests a preference of females for following other females and a gender-related networking behavior across the academic hierarchy.

The presented findings provide evidence that female researchers establish more reciprocal relationships on Twitter than male researchers do. This implies a stronger community development motive among female academic Twitter users. It should be noted that our findings relate to computer science which is a male-dominated field and it would be interesting for future research to investigate gender-related differences in female-dominated or gender-balanced academic domains. Our findings provide first insights in the impact of gender on academic networking behavior in social media. Further research is needed to strengthen these findings and to clarify the underlying processes.