Issues Affecting Women in STEM


I once thought that due to the efforts of the past generation of women, the battle for equality was over. One day, sitting as a senior in Prof Jay Gamble’s class at the University of Calgary, I said as much when he was giving his arguments as to why feminism is important today and benefits men as well as women. I said, “At least women are paid the same today.” I’ll never forget when he looked at me and said, “Oh, you think you’ll get paid the same as a future physics professor? Check out the latest report on the earnings of female and male professors across the universities in Canada.” This sentence changed my life and I started to check out the continuing bias facing women in science and in the workforce in general.

This webpage is dedicated to being a repository of information for research articles, blogs and useful references for those interested in learning about the challenges facing women and minorities in science.

Please email me with any articles you know of to make this site more complete:

srugheimer [at]

Quick Links:
Why So Few?

Peer-reviewed research showing continued bias facing women in STEM

Blog posts and articles on issues facing women in science:

Nature Takes on Gender Trouble:

Where are all the female geniuses? Scientific American

Benevolent Sexism: The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly Scientific American

A recent paper by Julia Becker and Stephen Wright details even more of the insidious ways that benevolent sexism might be harmful for both women and social activism. In a series of experiments, women were exposed to statements that either illustrated hostile sexism (e.g. “Women are too easily offended”) or benevolent sexism (e.g. “Women have a way of caring that men are not capable of in the same way.”) The results are quite discouraging; when the women read statements illustrating benevolent sexism, they were less willing to engage in anti-sexist collective action, such as signing a petition, participating in a rally, or generally “acting against sexism.” Not only that, but this effect was partially mediated by the fact that women who were exposed to benevolent sexism were more likely to think that there are many advantages to being a woman and were also more likely to engage in system justification, a process by which people justify the status quo and believe that there are no longer problems facing disadvantaged groups (such as women) in modern day society.

Why are there still so few women in science? Stories of continuing subtle bias New York Times

Only 20% of Wikipedia editors are women...and there is a known discrepancy of article about female scientists. Women in Rhode Island take on the challenge:

Post by Harvard Professor John Johnson about his personal experiences of having anxiety from the impostor syndrome.

So Many Exoplanets...So Few Women Scientists by Sara Seager

On the difficulties of being a single parent and the travel demands in academia.

Girls Lead in Science Exam, but Not in the US NY Times

Girls outperform boys in 65 countries in science but not in the US. In fact, only two countries had a male/female performance divide more extreme than the US: Liechtenstein and Colombia. Researchers point to cultural differences that are stronger in the US than in the Middle East, Russia and Asia which are perpetuating the myth that women have less aptitude in the sciences.

Women in Tech and Empathy Huffington Post

“women are frequently cast as caregivers in the workplace -- and how the work associated with that aspect of their roles is valued (or not) and compensated (or not) compared to the work performed primarily by men (i.e. coding and other heavily technical labor).”

Women in Science: How Bias Holds Them Back

Prof. Nancy Haegel:Women in Science: The Voice of Experience

Starting around 9:15

Men are from Mars Earth; Women are from Venus Earth

“From empathy and sexuality to science inclination and extroversion, statistical analysis of 122 different characteristics involving 13,301 individuals shows that men and women, by and large, do not fall into different groups. In other words, no matter how strange and inscrutable your partner may seem, their gender is probably only a small part of the problem.”

Lets Give Girls A Chance to Succeed in STEM:

How to Choose Recommenders:

Don’t be that dude: Handy Tips for the Male Academic

A field guide to privilege in marine science: some reasons why we lack diversity by Miriam Goldstein - Blog post on privilege and issues facing all disadvantaged groups:

Where are all the disabled scientists?

Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - Christianne Corbett

A repository of peer-reviewed research

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012)

The study used a clever design, in which an application, modified to be either from ‘Jennifer’ or ‘John’ was given to a male or female faculty member for evaluation. Evaluators in biology, chemistry and physics departments at six highly ranked research universities were told the résumé was real and that the evaluation would be used to develop mentoring materials for science students.

There were two key findings: First, ‘Jennifer’ received significantly lower ratings than ‘John,’ and second, male and female evaluators were equally likely to give 'Jennifer' lower ratings. The ratings pertained to competence, hireability and whether the candidate was deserving of mentoring. The evaluators made lower salary recommendations (by about 12 percent) for ‘Jennifer’ relative to ‘John.’

Note: Biology professors, for example, whose classes can be >50% female, were just as biased as physicists. Women professors were just as biased as men. Junior professors were just as biased as seniors.

News article summary of study:

Impact of Gender on the Cirricula Vitae of Job Applicants and Tenure Applicants: A National Empirical Study. (Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke, 1999)

This is a similar research study as the Moss-Racuin study above except that it is at the professor level. The bias seems to be worse the higher up you go. Panels composed of male and female university psychology professors were asked to evaluate application packages for either "Brian" or "Karen" and determine the candidate’s suitability as an assistant professor. The panels preferred 2:1 to hire "Brian" over "Karen," even though the application packages were identical except for the name. When evaluating a more experienced record (at the point of promotion to tenure), the panel members expressed reservations four times more often for "Karen" than for "Brian."

Mother penalty, Daddy Bonus

Correll, Benard & Paik (2007) extended the study to mothers. Panels were asked to evaluate application packages that were identical except for one line in the CV: "Active in the PTA." Evaluators rated mothers as less competent and committed to paid work than non-mothers. Prospective employers called mothers back about half as often. Mothers were less likely to be recommended for hire, promotion, and management. Mothers were offered lower starting salaries. When a similar study was done for fathers, however, the results were quite different. Fathers were not disadvantaged in the hiring process. They were seen as more committed to paid work, and were offered higher starting salaries.

The Possible Role of Resource Requirements and Academic Career-Choice Risk on Gender Differences in Publication Rate and Impact (Duch et al., 2012)

From Abstract: We built a unique database that comprises 437,787 publications authored by 4,292 faculty members at top United States research universities. Our analyses reveal that gender differences in publication rate and impact are discipline-specific. Our results also support two hypotheses. First, the widely-reported lower publication rates of female faculty are correlated with the amount of research resources typically needed in the discipline considered, and thus may be explained by the lower level of institutional support historically received by females. Second, in disciplines where pursuing an academic position incurs greater career risk, female faculty tend to have a greater fraction of higher impact publications than males.

Full article:

Becker, J., & Wright, S. (2011). Yet another dark side of chivalry: Benevolent sexism undermines and hostile sexism motivates collective action for social change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101 (1), 62-77 DOI: 10.1037/a0022615

Here is a great summary of many statistics (with references) of women in science:

Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in the Sciences. New York: Catalyst, 2012.

Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke (1999) Sex Roles, 41, 509.

Correll, Benard & Paik (2007) American Journal of Sociology, 112 (5), 1297.

Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) Proc. National Academy of Sciences, 109 (41) 16474.