Study after study finds that many women feel unwelcome
in laboratories and science departments, even after considerable progress in encouraging women to study science and technology fields. As these studies come out, there are almost always skeptics who say that whatever gender imbalance exists could well reflect different choices made, on average, by men and women, or who say that individual men are rising on their merits, not sexism.
But a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
offers evidence of bias among scientists -- male and female scientists alike -- against female students. The study was based on evaluations by scientists of hypothetical student applications for a lab manager position, with the application materials identical in every way, except that half of the pool received applications with a male name and the other half received applications with a female name. The faculty members surveyed -- 127 professors in biology, chemistry or physics -- were told that their analyses of the applications would be used to help the students. And they were asked to evaluate the students' competence and "hireability" and to consider how large a salary they would recommend and how much mentoring they would offer the student if hired.
The scientists evaluating these applications (which were identical in every way except the gender of the "submitter") rated the male student more competent, more likely to be hired, deserving of a better salary, and worth spending more time mentoring. The gaps were significant.