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.
Peer-reviewed research showing continued bias against women
This bibliography of 95 journal articles on a wide variety of gender issues such as: Hypotheses on the causes of underrepresentation of women in science: Declining gender gap in math achievement by girls and boys; Overemphasis of, and problems with, standardized tests; Role of culture’s gender inequity in math achievement by girls and boys; Intelligence as fixed trait vs. intelligence as malleable quality; Explicit sexism; Implicit biases; Incognizance of our biases, and the illusion of meritocracy; Gender-based personality expectations; Gender-based differential in self-concept; Impostor phenomenon; Stereotype threat; Different standards for women and men regarding leadership, persuasion, and negotiation; Gender-based differential in teaching evaluations, award winners, grants, promotion/tenure.
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.
Press release summary of study
Citation: Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) PNAS, 109 (41) 16474.
Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms (Grunspan et al. 2016)
This study found that males enrolled in undergraduate biology classes consistently ranked their male classmates as more knowledgeable about course content, even over better-performing female students. Men ranked other men by 0.57 GPA points (on a 4 point scale) higher than equally performing female students. "Using UW’s standard grade scale, that’s like believing a male with a B and a female with an A have the same ability," said co-lead author Sarah Eddy. This was not true of female biology students who ranked equally male and female peers.
Grunspan, D., et al. (2016) Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0148405. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148405
Quality of evidence revealing subtle gender biases in science is in the eye of the beholder (Handley et al. 2016)
This study shows that male academics are more likely to dismiss real studies showing gender bias as shoddy work while accepting the findings of fake research which show that there is no gender bias in STEM. Ironically this paper started a debate on my facebook wall with a male scientist pointing out the flaws in this study while unaware that he was proving the study correct in real time. It's a non-paradigm shattering demonstration that paradigms impact us all and we will use motivated reasoning, even as scientists, to confirm our perferred worldivew.
Faculty respond to white men more than women or people of color. Milkman et al. 2015
This study shows that professors will respond to inquiries of potential doctoral students more frequently to white male names over white women or women and men of color. The inquiries were the exact same except for the name...
Citation: Milkman, Chugh & Akinola (2015) Journal of Applied Psychology, 100 (6): 1678-1712. DOI: 10.1037/apl0000022
Where are the Gender Differences? Male Priming Boosts Spatial Skills in Women (Ortner & Sieverding 2008)Spatial reasoning is one of those gender differences that seemed to be genuine and related to known hormonal differences, including in men with varying testosterone levels. However, this study shows that if a woman imaging herself as a stereotypical male, then that gap in spatial reasoning disappears. A man spend time imaging himself in stereotypical female roles does not notice a decline from their baseline spatial reasoning. This only helps women and is neutral to men, and strongly indicates that spatial reasoning is not as gendered as previously thought. Stereotype threat is a powerful effect that needs to be addressed in our classrooms, job interviews, and in test environments. Nice blog overview of this and other studies related to stereotype threat and test performance from MIT admissions: Picture yourself as a stereotypical male
Citation: Ortner & Siverding (2008) Sex Roles, 59:274–281. DOI 10.1007/s11199-008-9448-9
Impact of Gender on the Cirricula Vitae of Job Applicants and Tenure Applicants: A National Empirical Study. (Steinpreis et al. 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. In a national study, 238 academic psychologists (118 male, 120 female) evaluated a resume randomly assigned a male or a female name. 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." Both male and female participants gave the male applicant better evaluations for teaching, research, and service experience and both were more likely to hire the male than the female applicant.Citation: Steinpreis, R., Anders, K.A., and Ritzke, D. (1999) "The impact of gender on the review of the curricula vitae of job applicants and tenure candidates: A national empirical study." Sex Roles 41: 509-528.
Mother penalty, Daddy Bonus (Correll et al. 2007)
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.
Citation: Correll, Benard & Paik (2007) American Journal of Sociology, 112 (5), 1297.
Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests (Bian et al. 2017)
The distribution of women and men across academic disciplines seems to be affected by perceptions of intellectual brilliance. Bian et al. studied young children to assess when those differential perceptions emerge. At age 5, children seemed not to differentiate between boys and girls in expectations of "really, really smart"—childhood's version of adult brilliance. But by age 6, girls were prepared to lump more boys into the “really, really smart” category and to steer themselves away from games intended for the "really, really smart."
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.
Citation: Duch et al. 2012 The Possible Role of Resource Requirements and Academic Career-Choice Risk on Gender Differences in Publication Rate and Impact, PLoS ONE 7(12): e51332. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0051332
Full text article (open source)
Bias is greater when small pool of applicants (Heilman, 1980)
Another study showed that the preference for males was greater when women represented a small proportion of the pool of candidates, as is typical in many academic fields.
Citation: Heilman, M. E., “The impact of situational factors on personnel decisions concerning women: varying the sexcomposition of the applicant pool,” Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 26 (1980): 386-395.
Bias in letters of recommendation (Trix and Psenka, 2003).
A study of over 300 recommendation letters for medical faculty at a large American medical school in the 1990s found that letters for female applicants differed systematically from those for males. Letters written for women were shorter, provided “minimal assurance” rather than solid recommendation, raised more doubts, and portrayed women as students and teachers while portraying men as researchers and professionals. While such differences were readily apparent, it is important to note that all letters studied were for successful candidates only.
Trix, F. and Psenka, C., “Exploring the color of glass: Letters of recommendation for female and male medical faculty,” Discourse & Society 14(2003): 191-220.
Women need much more publications to be considered equal (Wenneras and Wold, 1997)
A study of postdoctoral fellowships awarded by the Medical Research Council in Sweden, found that women candidates needed substantially more publications (the equivalent of 3 more papers in Nature or Science, or 20 more papers in specialty journals such as Infection and Immunity or Neuroscience) to achieve the same rating as men, unless they personally knew someone on the panel.
Wenneras, C. and Wold, A., “Nepotism and sexism in peer-review,” Nature. 387(1997): 341-43.
This study by psychologist Linda Carli et al., shows that while men and scientists are associated with being independent and agentic (proactive, self-motivating), women are perceived as being communal and not having these desirable traits for scientists. This lack of fit may contribute to bias against women in STEM fields.Citation: Carli, L. L., et al. (2016) Stereotypes About Gender and Science: Women ≠ Scientists. Psychology of Women Quarterly. Vol. 40(2) 244-260.
On the negatives of benevolent sexism (Becker and Wright, 2011)
Becker, J., and Wright, S. (2011). Yet another dark side of chivalry: Benevolent sexism undermines and hostile sexism motivates collective action for social change. Citation: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101 (1), 62-77 DOI: 10.1037/a0022615
A 2010 survey by the American Historical Association showed some interesting trends in the promotion rates between men and women, particularly when marriage is included. Note some of these effects can be explained by accounting for the age (and thus larger historical inequities), but not all. More interesting is that married men fare better than single men whereas the opposite is true for married women in academia. Married or previously married female historians took an average of 7.8 years to move from associate to full professor. Women who had never married were promoted in an average of 6.7 years. Married men took 5.9 years and unmarried men took on average 6.4 years. Also as in science, female historians are far more likely to have a partner also in academia than men.
Recorded Venture Capitalist' Conversations Show How Differently They Talk About Female Entrepreneurs (Malmstrom et al. 2017)
"Men were characterized as having entrepreneurial potential, while the entrepreneurial potential for women was diminished. Many of the young men and women were described as being young, though youth for men was viewed as promising, while young women were considered inexperienced. Men were praised for being viewed as aggressive or arrogant, while women’s experience and excitement were tempered by discussions of their emotional shortcomings."
"Unsurprisingly, these stereotypes seem to have played a role in who got funding and who didn’t. Women entrepreneurs were only awarded, on average, 25% of the applied-for amount, whereas men received, on average, 52% of what they asked for. Women were also denied financing to a greater extent than men, with close to 53% of women having their applications dismissed, compared with 38% of men. This is remarkable, given that government VCs are required to take into account national and European equality criteria and multiple gender requirements in their financial decision making."Citation: (2017) Gender Stereotypes and Venture Support Decisions: How Governmental Venture Capitalists Socially Construct Entrepreneurs’ Potential. DOI: 10.1111/etap.12275
"Twenty-five percent of black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10 percent got calls when they left ethnic details intact. Among Asians, 21 percent got calls if they used whitened resumes, whereas only 11.5 percent heard back if they sent resumes with racial references."Kang, S. et al. (2016) Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market.
Summary of many statistics and referancesHere is a great summary of many statistics (with references) of women in science.
Aggregated resource pages
A list of resources and scholarships for women and people of color in STEM.
Focused specifically on women in tech and computer science, this website is a great resource for more statistics, strategies to combat hiring bias, and additional resources.
List of working groups and committees for women and minorities, with a focus on astronomy.kids thinking about STEM careers and women pursuing data science TechnologyEducation.org keeps a great resource page for a lot of the pressing issues facing women in STEM
Bias against women in politics
studies and excerpts from the article on the psychology for supporting women in power: "To understand this reaction, start with what social psychologists call “precarious manhood” theory. The theory posits that while womanhood is typically viewed as natural and permanent, manhood must be “earned and maintained.” Because it is won, it can also be lost. Scholars at the University of South Florida and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported that when asked how someone might lose his manhood, college students rattled off social failures like “losing a job.” When asked how someone might lose her womanhood, by contrast, they mostly came up with physical examples like “a sex-change operation” or “having a hysterectomy.” Among the emasculations men most fear is subordination to women. (Some women who prize traditional gender roles find male subordination threatening too.) This fear isn’t wholly irrational. A 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that men who have female supervisors earn less, and enjoy less prestige, than men whose bosses are male. ... A study published last year by researchers at Northwestern, Washington State, and Bocconi University, in Italy, reported that men negotiating with a female hiring manager demanded more money than those negotiating with a male one. Another recent study, this one by University of South Florida researchers, showed that after men had their gender identity threatened, they placed riskier bets. Feeling subordinate to women may also lead men to act recklessly in their private lives. According to the University of Connecticut’s Christin Munsch, men who are economically dependent on their wives are more likely than others to be unfaithful. ... Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Two analyses of American murder statistics, for instance, suggest that in cities in the South, where men tend to hold traditional attitudes about gender, greater economic equality between men and women correlates with higher rates of male-on-female murder. The same correlation was not found in areas with less traditional attitudes."
Blog posts and articles on issues facing women in science
Fake a male cofounder to be taken seriously
These women set out to highlight gender discrimination and get better treatment simultaneously: "...they invented their third, male, cofounder after repeated instances of condescension with a sexist tone, like a developer who addressed an email to them starting, 'Okay, girls ...'
'It was like night and day,' Dwyer told Titlow of working through Mann. 'It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.'
On Quartz, Dwyer told Lila MacLellan that before Mann existed, 'it was very clear no one took us seriously and everybody thought we were just idiots.' But when those same people received emails from Mann, Gazin told MacLellan, 'they'd be like 'Okay, bro, yeah, let's brainstorm!'"
I like this article because it provides both stories and studies to back up the argument that women are perceived as less qualified in tech regardless of talent. We tend to think of genius as something that is born rather than made, and typically born male. Let's stop that. "Studies show that women who work in tech are interrupted in meetings more often than men. They are evaluated on their personality in a way that men are not. They are less likely to get funding from venture capitalists, who, studies also show, find pitches delivered by men—especially handsome men—more persuasive. And in a particularly cruel irony, women’s contributions to open-source software are accepted more often than men’s are, but only if their gender is unknown."
With interactive charts for comparing each contry across a variety of metrics.
This Harvard Business review article goes some of the reasons why though we have a higher number of women than ever studying engineering, a higher fraction of women than men leave the field. Part of the answer - a lot of systemic biases along the way. Women being given less fulfilling internship projects, for example. Also women tend to be attracted to engineering with a humanitarian aspect and are sometimes disappointed in the level of civic engagement after seeing the day to day in the field.
Here is a great video on Danica McKellar, child actress who played Winner Cooper in "The Wonder Years", and how she became a star mathmatician despite feeling inferior due to not "looking" the type.
This article goes through seven peer-reviewed strategies female faculty can use to climb the ladder of academic success while also addressing implicit bias.
One of my favorite showing the gender pay gap within each profession from Financial Specialists (66%) to Nurses (89%) to HR specialists (100%, no gap)
"Academic men fare far better than women – especially women who have children. In fact, academia has the distinction of being a more punishing profession for mothers than either law or medicine."
Some food for thought: "The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27% higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22% more than maids and housecleaners (usually women)."
Nature Takes on Gender Trouble
New York Times: When Whites Just Don't Get it
Bias, Racism, and Hiring for People of Color
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 in the New York Times
Here is a great video flipping gender roles about comedy.
There is a known discrepancy of articles about female scientists. Women in Rhode Island take on the challenge.
On the difficulties of being a single parent and the travel demands in academia.
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 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)."
"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."
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