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The Almighty Buck Science

Sexism In Science 467

An anonymous reader writes with news of a recent paper about the bias among science faculty against female students. The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asked professors to evaluate applications for a lab manager position. The faculty were given information about fictional applicants with randomly-assigned genders. They tended to rate male applicants as more hire-able than female applicants, and male names also generated higher starting salary and more mentoring offers. This bias was found in both male and female faculty. "The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student."
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Sexism In Science

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  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:32PM (#41491419) Homepage Journal

    I remember when one of my colleagues in Statistics brought in her son, who was amazed that there were actually male scientists in US statistics, biostatistics, and medical genetics.

    Up to running into a few male post-grads in the lab, he had only seen women in these fields. ... oh, wait, you mean male sexism. Yeah, might be a problem back east. Even the UW Engineering school is starting to see an uptick in women engineering Doctoral and Undergraduate students. Less so in Computer Science, sadly.

    Adapt. Or Adapt.

    There is no other choice.

  • by gapagos ( 1264716 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:33PM (#41491439)

    Isn't it interesting that women seem to have more prejudice against equal salary for women, than women do?
    That kinda goes against the claim by some feminists that women are the constant victims of men oppression dictating salaries.
    Last time I checked, more women than men work in human resources, too. Just saying...

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:33PM (#41491457)
    Nope it is everywhere.
    I have worked at many places to know women are generally discriminated against based on wage.
    In the USA, there was an argument that passing a law making it against the rule for employees to talk about pay wage and women getting raises to the same level as their male counterparts would actually bankrupt the system and other stupid excuses.

    Conversely, I have a Brother-In-Law who wanted to become a nurse and experienced sexism in Nursing school from a teacher and sexism at his job.
    So it isnt just one sided, but it probably depends on the field. Male dominated/Female sexism, Female Dominated/Male Sexism.
  • by ZeroSumHappiness ( 1710320 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:41PM (#41491595)

    There's a number of reasons I can imagine this evolving. I would imagine a thought process like this could cause it: "I worked so hard to get where I am, proved beyond all my male peers how skillful I am. If she's not going to prove herself she's not going to get anywhere in this field."

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <> on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:47PM (#41491729) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if the females were basing the salary figures off of a relative number based on their own salary? That would explain the bias from them, if they were subject to it in their own hiring.

  • by Egdiroh ( 1086111 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:51PM (#41491823)
    I have to say the write up of the summary for this post did a really good job of not over stating what the study did and showed. Some that I have seen for this have been really bad.

    So for me the question is that here the study was on name bias based on gender of names. So there are some obvious followup questions here, like were there gender ambiguous names in the study Like Terry, and if so how did they did do. For the participants what sort of pre-esxisitng person to name associations did they have with those names. (i.e. Rather then being a direct gender bias could this have been that people are more likely to have name biases for female names then male names [and by name bias I mean things like not trusting people named Jennifer].) Further going beyond the direct follow up I wonder if there are biases in styles of names. Does Jim go over better or worse the James, If there is a skew towards formal or informal names how do people who's names don't have a clear nickname (like Derek) end up in the whole situation. To me this just opens the doors to more questions, and since the study did not find that the bias was particular to either gender of reviewer, I think the obvious thing to ask is, so what's really going on here.

    I think that this is a really important area, because science is best served by diversity, and am a little disappointed that they published their results at this stage because it potentially taints further study into this issue. I think that if we are going to tackle the problem we really need to understand it rather then trying fixes that are ignorant of the root causes.
  • by LothDaddy ( 169765 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:59PM (#41491967)

    During my time in academia; Ph.D. student -> post doc -> professor, I always felt that women made better lab managers than men - so I think the people sampled in this study are completely wrong. At the risk of sounding like I'm stereotyping, the female managers tended to balance multiple concurrent projects better and kept the environment more harmonious and inclusive. The only times I saw issues with this type of situation was when it was a women-only environment. The most productive labs I witnessed, irregardless of the gender of the PI, had a female lab manager and a balance of female and male employees/students. I had lab mangers of both genders and paid them based on their level of experience as dictated by the university HR.

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:09PM (#41492109)

    I have worked at many places to know women are generally discriminated against based on wage.
    Are you sure of that or is it just your impression? I can believe that there is a bias among certain people, but I also know that studies were made that disputed the claim that women make less then men on average. The key is comparing apples to apples i.e. not just comparing people doing the same job, but comparing people with the same number of years of full time experience of comparable quality. Comparing workers of the same age in the same job fail because women take more time off in their careers to raise children and therefore have on average less work experience than men. Comparing overall years of experience also fails because women work part time much more often than men. Sounds obvious but a lot of studies that "show" that women are discriminated against actually suffer from one or both of the above problems.

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:09PM (#41492113) Homepage Journal
    I just recently watched that documentary, had some interesting things in it, one was how a name effects you through life.

    Having a more common name in general..helps. Having a very bizzare and strange sounding name...will often keep you from being hired over someone else.

    The show mentioned, that black and white names...until only a couple or so decades ago, were similar, but in the late 60's and 70's you started seeing black parents coming up with very unusual and stand out naming habits (Shaquillabonno, etc)....

    It may sound sad to you that a name can do this to you, but you need to face facts that it does. Your are likely to get called in for that CPA interview if your name is Jack.....and not so much if your name is Rain, Ja'Quaelah , Sting or Cher.....

    If you're a parent....have a heart and try to give you kids a name that will help them out later in life....right or wrong, that's just the way things are and sometimes you have to accept that.

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _bug_ ( 112702 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:13PM (#41492167) Journal

    There is actually a massive need for male teachers at the elementary level right now. Why? Because boys need male role models and often don't have one because either dad is off working all day or they don't have a dad at all. And if boys don't have the real thing in front of them they're going to learn by what they find elsewhere (television, movies, older boys) which tends to have negative consequences.

  • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:14PM (#41492183)
    Yeah I know what you mean! In my grad program there were all these incentives for BLACKS! And of course we were just over-run with African-American students in the field. Why, looking back, in the time it took me to get my doctorate, we must have had as many as one. Yep. One. Maybe we need some incentives. I mean, boohoo, for me and all, as I'm a white guy. No scholarships for you buddy! But, looking around, it seems like we don't really need incentives for white men in my field. And, hell, not for the white women either. All the ones I know are paid less than me, so they're clearly willing to do it without incentives. Probably because women are stupid and can't drive, or something like that.
  • by Bill Dimm ( 463823 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:20PM (#41492275) Homepage

    It's not surprising at all. If you are hiring someone to work under you, the amount you would offer to pay them will be influenced by how much you make yourself (anchoring). If women are paid less than men, it's perfectly natural for them to offer lower salaries to the people that will work under them.

  • Re:It's logical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ProfBooty ( 172603 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:20PM (#41492285)

    In general, women tend to prefer men who are of higher status than themselves and there is some social stigma to "marrying down".. Men don't seem to have that preference, nor stigma, in the aggregate. As women's and men's incomes fall in line with one another, women tend to become more choosey, chasing after a shrinking pool of high status men, or so the male based blogosphere would have you believe.

  • by Velex ( 120469 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:24PM (#41492349) Journal

    Well, hey, that also means that STEM careers are less sexist, too! I just heard on NPR the other day that women only make 70% of what men do. But if you're a woman and you go into STEM, run those numbers, and hey! If you're being hired by another women, you'll make 85%, a whole 15% more than other careers. For top score, get hired by a man, and you're up to 89% of what your male colleagues are making!

    So good job, STEM!

  • by roccomaglio ( 520780 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:28PM (#41492393)
    Woman make up almost 60% of college students to 40% for men. So using this logic almost all general college scholarships should be male only.
  • Re:Only in science? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:33PM (#41492455)
    I actually quit a job because it was overly sexist towards women (I am a male), so sexist in fact that it turned out to be a dating facility for the CEO, who also used the money to go to strip clubs and get high priced hookers on the companies dime, but thanks for assuming.
    And I didnt make that point for any kind of equivalency, anyone with a brain knows most businesses are male dominated. But sexism exists everywhere.
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:41PM (#41492597)

    My wife complains about other women in the workplace far more than about men. According to her, a large contingent of women in the workplace are backstabbing jezebels, and she'd much rather work with men. Every once in a while, there's some freak of a man who bothers her (usually some creep who can't seem to understand that she's not interested in some fat, ugly old man and wants to put his hands all over her; the fact that she's married doesn't seem to be a factor for these men). But they're rare, a small, small portion of the total number of men she meets. But with women, it's more like half of them are evil bitches trying to hurt her somehow to improve their own position.

  • racist policies kept blacks out of career and education opportunities, with longstanding consequences. so: affirmative action

    sexism is real and keeps women under a glass ceiling: so corrective hiring policies

    classism is real and simple economics tells us money naturally gravitates to a few players. so: progressive tax rates to correct what otherwise would result in all wealth in society flowing to a few ultrawealthy

    why are these simple prudent policies such a giant brainfuck for some people? why are they so hostile to these ideas?

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @04:07PM (#41492985)

    This is all generalization of course, but I disagree.

    Yes, we do hear of female schoolteachers having sex with their male students. But in most of these cases, it's a 20-something teacher with boys who are at least 15 years old, frequently something like a 17-year-old boy and a 25-year-old teacher. There really isn't that much of an age gap, and the boy(s) in question is well past puberty and almost a legal adult. But when was the last time you heard of a woman molesting a pre-pubescent boy? I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing, ever. But this happens all the time with men; they frequently molest prepubescent boys and girls (esp. if they're Catholic priests). Both men and women get sexually involved with older teenagers of the opposite sex; this really isn't that rare, and I think it's a problem that our society and laws don't seem to draw that much of a distinction between post-pubescent and pre-pubescent children. I'm not saying it should be OK for a 50-year-old dude to talk a 17-year-old girl into sex, but there's a big difference between that and him molesting a 9-year-old girl. The 17-year-old is bigger, stronger, can defend herself, is nearly an adult and understands sex (and probably isn't even a virgin these days) and is much more likely to be able to handle the situation; she's not utterly defenseless like the 9-year-old. And it's (remotely) possible the 17-year-old was consenting; this concept is utterly ridiculous in the case of the 9-year-old.

    So no, men don't have a monopoly on the predation of all minors, but I think they do have a monopoly on the predation of prepubescent minors.

  • by Ltap ( 1572175 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @04:18PM (#41493153) Homepage
    There are a number of underpinnings to what's broadly called anti-egalitarianism (which is a facet of the philosophies or schools of Fascism, the New Right, etc.). On one hand, there are the people who benefit from anti-egalitarianism and sponsor propaganda to that effect, similar to the anti-republican (in the "form of government" sense, not the "American political party" sense) and anti-democratic propaganda produced by aristocrats to discourage people from supporting democracy because of the "ignorant masses". The general basis for it is a nifty piece of circular reasoning where undereducated and ignorant people are derided for being undereducated and ignorant by the very people who have historically tried to ensure that they stayed undereducated and ignorant.

    One way to think of it is a bit like a murder investigation -- look for motive. The very people who benefit most from anti-egalitarianism are people who occupy privileged positions which would vanish in a more egalitarian society -- the wealthy CEOs, princes, and oligarchs of all forms. Thus, they have the greatest incentive (and are in fact pretty much the only ones who have an incentive at all) to promote anti-egalitarian sentiment. It is, however, easy to promote simply because people, especially in the middle of the economic spectrum (petit-bourgeoisie, or the "small business owner" in many cases), occupy a precarious class position which they are constantly having to fight to maintain. Part of the result of this is a general social separation from the people directly below them (the working class), which is a natural result of fighting hard to stay above working-class people and to live out, in the USA, the myths of the American Dream and social advancement. Thus, while they might not instigate anti-egalitarian classism, they are more susceptible to aiding those who do instigate it and becoming the lackeys of the very group above them which utilizes them as a shield.

    One way to consider this is to imagine three people, A, B, and C. Person A is a slave, Person B is a servant, and Person C is a master. In this situation, Person C might use Person B to keep Person A in bondage by threatening to eliminate Person B's (relatively more) privileged position. Even if it would be more advantageous for A and B to unite against C, this seldom happens, for a variety of reasons, often related to the machinations of Person C.

    Even more insidious, especially in the cases of sexism and racism, is when people who occupy roughly the same class position are pitted against each other. It is advantageous to rulers for a permanent underclass to exist (as black people and women have been throughout the history of the United States, often the lowest of the low) because they can be exploited most readily. The easiest way to maintain this is to sponsor bigotry that will keep this group separated from other groups -- black from white, for instance. Then, this underclass will have to fight almost entirely alone to gain even a modicum of freedom, rather than being helped by their brothers and sisters to gain it. Why? Because our society today forces people to be competitive or be destroyed, rather than to unite in a non-competitive way. Thus, black workers gaining more rights could be seen as a threat to the privileged position of some white workers, and so forth. The easiest way to sustain a system is to throw a few scraps to a few select groups, and in doing that to turn them into defenders of the system for fear of losing their privileges.
  • Re:Only in science? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 28, 2012 @04:31PM (#41493363)

    As a fact, there are far, far more women molesters targetting boys aged 13-17 than men, which is why women studies only talk about the cases that involve prepubescent minors. Women are also more violent on average than men when the victims are children and the elderly, which is again the reason women studies only talk about violence towards women. It's as if "women studies" were gender biased and cherry picked their cases in which there happens to be a gender disparity, and then shout 'SEXISM!'. Job salary is one of them. There's no gender bias when you look at all the data, the gender bias only appears when you start to mix apples with oranges, which is what feminists do. In Europe is illegal to pay less to an employee for the same job, regardless of their gender, which totally exposes their lies.

  • handicapping (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @04:37PM (#41493443)

    Based on the evidence presented in the study, the conclusion that faculty have a lower regard for female job applicants than for male job applicants is at best an unsupported assumption and at worst a misinterpretation of the evidence. Furthermore, the study results are consistent with faculty holding beliefs favorably biased toward women and against men.

    To rate job applicants on the basis of jobs applications one must hypothesize a relationship between the application and the applicant. One must explicitly, or implicitly through action, supply a general answer to the question: Given an application, how well will the applicant perform on the job?.

    The only definite conclusion which can be reached from this study is that faculty hypothesize different relationships between application and applicant for male than for female applicants. But here is the kicker: The "bias" exhibited in this study is consistent with a belief among hirers that women job applicatns tend to look better on paper, not worse, than male applicants. Faculty offering lower salaries to women could be operating in the belief that women are better than men at presenting themselves.

    If Professor Jane Doe believes the following to be true:
    "Women are usually awesomely fantastic at presenting themselves, so if this female applicant looks looks like a 10/10 on paper, she is really probably an 8/10"
    "Men are terrible ignoramuses at presenting themselves, so if he looks like an 8/10 on paper, he's probably a 10/10".

    Those statements 1) Evidently display belief favorably biased toward female and against male applicants 2) Are consistent with the study results.

    So, the traditional interpretation is flawed, because it is not a conclusion, but an assumption; there is no reason whatsoever to favor it over a handicapping explanation.

    Someone should study what are the assumption of the faculty about the relationship between jobs applicants and job applications. And separately, if there is a difference in those assumptions between male and female job applicants, how accurate are they?

  • Re:Root causes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <> on Friday September 28, 2012 @05:27PM (#41494027) Homepage

    Man, did you even read the paper? A huge part of why women aren't encouraged to stay in science and stick it through is because of the awful treatment that they get when they're young and starting out. Only an utter masochist or someone committed beyond most human reasoning would stick it out in an area where they offer you $5000 less to start *before they even meet you*.

    On every metric that they measured, women were getting the short shrift (even worse, people with feminine sounding names; 'Michelle' is also a man's name if you're French): money, mentoring and decisions of competence. For a lab management position that would probably just be a stepping stone through academia.

    Women are the ones that bear children, it's true, but there are Scandinavian countries where the men also get a significant amount of parental leave, allowing the mother to get back to work if she so chooses and letting the father stay home with the kids. The problem isn't with WOMEN, the problem is with the way we TREAT women. Maybe if we thought of them as equal and competent workers, we'd find ways to manage the inconveniences of life that all of us have to deal with.

    There are a great number of things that men are more likely to do that are deleterious to their health and ability to show up to work, but we don't seem to care about that. Blaming women for having kids doesn't make a single thing better. Societally, we just don't hold women in much esteem, and that's the real issue in the end. We can fix this, we just need to stop giving the same excuses and saying, "Well, we've tried nothing, and now we're all out of ideas!"

  • Re:Only in science? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:27PM (#41495227) Homepage

    I don't understand why you don't believe men when they say there is little discrimination

    Same reason I don't believe white people when they say there is little discrimination against blacks or hispanics.

    First, because I'm not blind so I know there is.

    Second, because not being the target of it, not being sensitive to it, and wanting to believe that everything they have is due solely to meritocracy, means their opinion on the non-existence of oppression of peoples who aren't them is basically meaningless.

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Friday September 28, 2012 @10:02PM (#41496161) Homepage

    discriminatory practices tend to have the effect of encouraging more discrimination. "She only got the job because she's a woman and they had to hire her" and the like.

    Actually in my 25+ years in the work place I never heard anyone make that comment that wasn't a sexist bigot to begin with.

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