Friday, November 9, 2012
Gender biases within academic science
Science faculty display subtle gender biases that may contribute to the underrepresentation of women within many fields of academic science, according to a study. Using a randomized, double-blind study design, Corinne Moss-Racusin and colleagues asked a nationwide sample of 127 biology, chemistry, and physics professors to evaluate the application materials of an undergraduate student who was ostensibly applying for a lab manager position. All professors received identical applications, which were randomly attributed to either a male or a female student.
The authors found that the male student was more likely to be hired and offered mentoring opportunities, was rated as more competent, and was offered a higher starting salary compared with the female student with identical credentials. This bias occurred independently of the faculty member's gender, scientific discipline, age, and tenure status. According to the authors, the findings suggest that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent than the male student.
Additional analyses revealed a pre-existing subtle bias against women that undermined the faculty participants' perceptions and treatment of the female applicant. The findings suggest that the faculty members' bias may be unintentional, stemming from widespread cultural stereotypes about women's competence in science, and could potentially hinder female participation in science, according to the authors.
"Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students," by Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman