Gender bias in science

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Identical resumes were given to researchers, the only difference being that sometimes the person represented by the resume was sometimes given a male name, sometimes a female name. The researchers then rated the resumes, giving worse results to the same resume, if it had a female name attached, rather than a male name.

1) Both male and female scientists were equally guilty of committing the gender bias. Yes – women can behave in ways that are sexist, too. Women need to examine their attitudes and actions toward women just as much as men do. What this suggests is that the biases likely did not arise from overt misogyny but were rather a manifestation of subtler prejudices internalized from societal stereotypes. As the authors put it,

“If faculty express gender biases, we are not suggesting that these biases are intentional or stem from a conscious desire to impede the progress of women in science. Past studies indicate that people’s behavior is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent…”

2) When scientists judged the female applicants more harshly, they did not use sexist reasoning to do so. Instead, they drew upon ostensibly sound reasons to justify why they would not want to hire her: she is not competent enough. Sexism is an ugly word, so many of us are only comfortable identifying it when explicitly misogynistic language or behavior is exhibited. But this shows that you do not need to use anti-women language or even harbor conscious anti-women beliefs to behave in ways that are effectively anti-women.

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