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Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students
September 24, 2012 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Whenever the subject of women in science comes up, there are people fiercely committed to the idea that sexism does not exist. They will point to everything and anything else to explain differences while becoming angry and condescending if you even suggest that discrimination could be a factor. But these people are wrong. This data shows they are wrong. And if you encounter them, you can now use this study to inform them they’re wrong.
posted by sarastro (68 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Alas, science tells us that facts don't do much to change people's minds most of the time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on September 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'd be very curious to see this repeated with other types of positions besides lab manager. I can see the stereotype of males being more mechanically inclined than females playing into that role more than others.

Also, it's interesting that female faculty were even more biased than male faculty.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:30 PM on September 24, 2012


Biology, Chemistry and Physics, it looks like. I'd be very interested in how effect sizes / p-values varied between the departments. Unfortunately, we won't get to see that:

...following the stipulation of the reviewing Institutional Review Board, we assured full anonymity to our faculty participants. As a result, it was impossible to ask them to indicate to which de- partment they belonged.
posted by gurple at 2:32 PM on September 24, 2012


I feel depressed that I'm in the "1) This is not surprising, but I’m glad we have something concrete to show what we’ve known all along." camp.

I remember reading an article once about a biologist who transitioned from male to female, and changed her personal name, but not last name. Later, she overheard someone saying how she just wasn't as talented as "her brother" (aka herself, when she was publicly seen to be male).

This is why people don't take Larry Summers seriously.
posted by jb at 2:35 PM on September 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


Sorry - I'm not depressed that we now have evidence - just depressed that this kind of discrimination exists.
posted by jb at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2012


jb, I believe you're thinking of Ben Barres.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sexism and gender bias obviously exists, and I am not surprised by experiments that suggest that the resumes of women applying for science jobs are looked at less favorably than the similar resumes of men.

But here and in the broader culture there is often a dogmatic insistence that any achievement or outcome gap between the sexes must be wholly explained by discrimination, and this seems rather unlikely. Some academic fields have much larger gender gaps than others, and it seems implausible that these differences are explained wholly by differences in discriminatory attitudes. Philosophy, math, and hard sciences seem to skew much more male than english or anthropology. I have no trouble accepting that academics in philosophy or math or the sciences have some sexist attitudes -- but must I really conclude that scientists are just way, way more bigoted than english professors?
posted by grobstein at 2:41 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


here is often a dogmatic insistence that any achievement or outcome gap between the sexes must be wholly explained by discrimination, and this seems rather unlikely

This seems like a strawman argument. The 'insistence' I usually see is that we work to fix the obvious problem (sexism), and see if differences don't shake out. Thie study in the OP doesn't speak to 'innate differences' because it used a false set of resumes which were exactly the same for men and women. In an egalitarian world where men in the general happened to be better at some things and women in general at others, you'd see no preference between a fake male candidate and a fake female candidate. We clearly don't live in that world.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2012 [20 favorites]


must I really conclude that scientists are just way, way more bigoted than english professors?

I think it makes sense to conclude that there exists in some societies a prejudice that being an English professor is "for women" and being a physics professor is "for men," yeah. And that those prejudices are consciously and unconsciously reinforced.

The interesting thing about professions that are "for women" is that men are proportionately more and more overrepresented the higher you go on the ladder. Elementary school principals, as a set, include a far higher proportion of men than do elementary school teachers, as a set. Nursing administrators, as a set, include a far higher proportion of men than do nurses, as a set. And within the set of English professors, the proportion of men increases as you go up the ladder of academia.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:48 PM on September 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


No, grobstein, that's not what you're to conclude; in fact, the conclusion to the piece warned against exactly that conclusion. The argument is that rather than being a character flaw in the respondent, the bias toward men is a result of sub- or un-conscious ideas and expectations. The reasons given for the bias were not sexist reasons, they were plausible reasons related to performance - it's just that they were not based in fact.
posted by Fraxas at 2:49 PM on September 24, 2012


I am not surprised by experiments that suggest that the resumes of women applying for science jobs are looked at less favorably than the similar resumes of men.

They were essentially identical resumes.

But here and in the broader culture there is often a dogmatic insistence that any achievement or outcome gap between the sexes must be wholly explained by discrimination, and this seems rather unlikely. Some academic fields have much larger gender gaps than others, and it seems implausible that these differences are explained wholly by differences in discriminatory attitudes. Philosophy, math, and hard sciences seem to skew much more male than english or anthropology. I have no trouble accepting that academics in philosophy or math or the sciences have some sexist attitudes -- but must I really conclude that scientists are just way, way more bigoted than english professors

There's a lot of "seems" going on, in the face of some straightforward data. Do you have anything besides what you personally feel is implausible to back up your point of view?

If you're really interested, you should read up on stereotype threat and also the experiment with switching to "blind" auditions by orchestras that resulted in a much higher rate of hiring women.
posted by emjaybee at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


The interesting thing about professions that are "for women" is that men are proportionately more and more overrepresented the higher you go on the ladder. Elementary school principals, as a set, include a far higher proportion of men than do elementary school teachers, as a set. Nursing administrators, as a set, include a far higher proportion of men than do nurses, as a set. And within the set of English professors, the proportion of men increases as you go up the ladder of academia.

Yes.

I can brainstorm just 1 or 2 professions that I come into contact with where this is not immediately the case. What kind of work is "women's work"? I mean, we've pretty well covered the kitchen, right? Definitely women should be cooking! But how many executive chefs are men? How many top-end designers? (Sewing! It's for ladies!) And on, and on, and on.
posted by amanda at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2012


grobstein seems to have really missed the point of the study. Which is to prove systematically that gender biases in hiring indisputedly do exist independent of all other factors. (and these other factors you mentioned would in fact even further decrease the numbers of women employed in Science.)

Did you even read the article?
posted by mary8nne at 3:03 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Relevant to a lot of MeFi discussions on women's voices not being taken seriously as telling the truth about our own experiences, I found this to be an interesting response to the fact that this kind of proof was needed at all.
posted by amelioration at 3:05 PM on September 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, a relevant excerpt from the commentary I mentioned above:

But it’s not a stretch for a lay person to see how this overall mistrust of women scientists doesn’t just end with discussions about discrimination. The entire practice of science is built of the trust of experimentation and evidence, that
a scientist will do the work correctly and record the results without altering them in any way.

What does it mean then when Science treats women scientists as if they are liars or prone to exaggeration about their own basic experiences within the field?

posted by amelioration at 3:06 PM on September 24, 2012


The interesting thing about professions that are "for women" is that men are proportionately more and more overrepresented the higher you go on the ladder.

That's also true at the biological research institution where I work, at least anecdotally. Grad students, postdocs and junior faculty seem slightly tilted toward women, maybe 60-40 female-male. High-level research positions and certainly the administrative positions seem to be more like 70-30 male-female. It's possible my numbers are way off, but there's definitely a skew.

I'm raising a toddler girl in 2012 and not in, say, 1982. Not that I think we'll have all this worked out by the time my daughter is marking career choices and applying for jobs, but I think we'll see some movement.
posted by gurple at 3:07 PM on September 24, 2012


^^ I'm glad I'm...
posted by gurple at 3:08 PM on September 24, 2012


I keep wondering if I should initialize the first letter of my name on my resumes. I work in a male-dominated field. And the economy sucks. It's very tempting to see if I can get my feminine foot in some of these doors if they don't know for sure whether they are getting an inexpensive, barely sentient WOMAN or a shining example of male virility to puff up their coffers. Reading reports like this makes me want to give it a shot.
posted by amanda at 3:09 PM on September 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by maxwelton at 3:09 PM on September 24, 2012


I skimmed the article, so this might be obvious, but I have always been curious about what the distribution of the gender bias looks like - are there a few super-sexist scientists out there or is it more evenly distributed? Does anyone know? It's important to keep in mind that this does not mean that your high school science teacher automatically was sexist (it's just likely).

Also, just to play devil's advocate, but how do we know that the items on a resume aren't just signalling mechanisms and these scientists have expectations about reverse discrimination in undergraduate science courses or even undergraduate acceptances in general? Again, just as devil's advocate, see page 3: http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/cbs2011_total_group_report.pdf. Especially since female scientists (who should obviously know better) also exhibit preferences for male candidates.
posted by The Ted at 3:11 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A related paper is this: How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't. Jump to slide #21 for the reveal.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:12 PM on September 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


I should have realized that stepping into this thread was just going to trigger a bunch of tendentious misreadings of my two-paragraph comment. Now I have the option of responding to any of twelve different nitpicks, misattributions, and misunderstandings, and leaving all the rest unanswered. It really wasn't worth getting involved.

But because I just read the New York Times report on this study, I figured I could quickly respond to this nasty little bit of condescension:

There's a lot of "seems" going on, in the face of some straightforward data. Do you have anything besides what you personally feel is implausible to back up your point of view?

This is just a shitty thing to say. You don't even explain what in particular from my statement you think is objectionable. But obviously unlike every other poster on Metafilter it's not okay for me to rely on my personal observations. So here is what the Times reported about the study:
Female professors were just as biased against women students as their male colleagues, and biology professors just as biased as physics professors — even though more than half of biology majors are women, whereas men far outnumber women in physics.
Let me connect the dots for you: in the experiment, biology professors are just as biased as physics professors, but there is a much larger gender gap in physics. Therefore, the bias found in this experiment doesn't explain the physics gender gap.
posted by grobstein at 3:13 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know what you mean, amanda. I remember the last time I was applying for jobs, finding a company that I seemed to be a good fit for, but looking at their online directory and realizing that there were literally NO employees with female-looking names. I (maybe mistakenly) decided not to submit a resume, because if I never heard back I would always wonder.

Especially since female scientists (who should obviously know better) also exhibit preferences for male candidates.

This isn't about "knowing better", it's about unconscious biases that we all learn.
posted by muddgirl at 3:13 PM on September 24, 2012


"I'd be very curious to see this repeated with other types of positions besides lab manager. I can see the stereotype of males being more mechanically inclined than females playing into that role more than others."

Funny, I'd have almost expected to see less discrimination in hiring for lab manager positions for stereotypes about organizational skills, gender role expectations that push women towards more secretarial type work, and the fact that lab managing tends to be more of a terminal position than most academic jobs with less prospects for advancement.

Though on that note I wonder if the differences in willingness to provide career mentoring might result from gendered perceptions of what a male versus a female applicant might want from the position in terms of career advancement.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:16 PM on September 24, 2012


I saw the Times article and knew I would see this here. I liked the simplicity of the experiment and how it really cut to the chase: people liked the male candidate better, to the point of offering a higher starting salary. It doesn't try to explain all gender differences, just demonstrate how pervasive and embedded these biases are.
posted by Forktine at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just so you know, "Let me connect the dots for you," is kind of shitty tone. How the hell are people supposed to know that you've read other things and that those things are backing up your current opinion?

Also: "Therefore, the bias found in this experiment doesn't explain the physics gender gap."

Understanding gender bias isn't about pointing to all the menfolk and suggesting we've found our answer. Is anyone surprised who has spent any time pondering these things that women have gender bias, too? It's sort of exasperating and mystifying but not when you start drilling down into what gender bias is and how it is constructed.
posted by amanda at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


it's about unconscious biases that we all learn

True that, and if only we could all stop being so damned defensive about trying to correct our unconscious biases. We all have them because we live in a society that has instilled them in us. Let's admit that and all make a good faith effort to actively address them in ourselves. Like Ben Franklin said, "Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn."
posted by smirkette at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love that this got published in PNAS, of all journals.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2012


The problem, grobstein, is that there is a well studies explanation for that effect that you seem to have either ignored, discounted, or not known about. Women are discouraged, throughout their lives, from pursuing careers in physics or mathematics to a far greater degree than they are discouraged from pursuing careers in biology. It's not a factor other than discrimination, it's a different type of discrimination than the one specifically examined in this study. I could find you plenty of evidence for this, if you like.
posted by kyrademon at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


jb, I believe you're thinking of Ben Barres.

yes, I am, and I completely reversed his experience. Sorry, Ben Barres (I have a swiss cheese brain).
posted by jb at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2012


I love that this got published in PNAS, of all journals.

Me, too, mainly because I can't pronounce the abbreviation of the journal's name any other way than "pee-nas" in my head.
posted by gurple at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can brainstorm just 1 or 2 professions that I come into contact with where this is not immediately the case. What kind of work is "women's work"? I mean, we've pretty well covered the kitchen, right? Definitely women should be cooking! But how many executive chefs are men? How many top-end designers? (Sewing! It's for ladies!) And on, and on, and on.

The stereotypes are a little more complex than that. In the professional cooking world, a lot of people believe that women can cook basic food, but not gourmet, or not in the high-pressure professional environment. Similarly in fashion: women might sew as a hobby, but they aren't creative, like men. Historically, women have been excluded from the creative side of high end fashion, but have always supplied the labour.
posted by jb at 3:26 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


PEE-ENN-AAY-ESS

but everyone says peenis at least once
posted by Blasdelb at 3:26 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


amelioration posted this link.

I really strongly disagree with the sentiment in that link. Their thesis is essentially that asking for hard data is discounting women's stories.

They're wrong. Yes, anecdotal stories are insufficient. I don't give a damn where they come from. I'm a female scientist, I have experienced at least one incident of serious harassment, and I do think that story is important. The plural of anecdote is not data, no matter how emotionally serious, societally troubling, or just plain intense the anecdotes in question are.

In addition to being a female scientist with a story, I also realize that my story is just that, a story, and we are scientists; we want hard data. Studies like these give us that data.
posted by nat at 3:28 PM on September 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


grobstein says: Let me connect the dots for you: in the experiment, biology professors are just as biased as physics professors, but there is a much larger gender gap in physics. Therefore, the bias found in this experiment doesn't explain the physics gender gap.

I also wanted to respond to this. I agree, the bias in this particular experiment doesn't explain the entirety of the physics gender gap; but it's still possible that other similar biases do explain it (without the need to resort to biological factors).

That having been said, I personally believe the goal should not be proportional representation; there might always be more men in physics, or women studying child development. I don't think that's a problem.

What clearly *is* a problem is the sort of systematic bias highlighted in this study, especially when it is invisible to those holding the bias. We should work to eliminate this sort of bias, not to get exactly 50% of our scientists to be female.
posted by nat at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really strongly disagree with the sentiment in that link. Their thesis is essentially that asking for hard data is discounting women's stories.

I just came up with a study: Do (cisgender) men menstruate?

Is this study going to get any sort of press, outside the Ig Nobel prize? Science is not conducted in a vacuum. What we choose to study is telling.
posted by muddgirl at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2012


(Also, the thesis of the link is that "the fact that we HAVE to look for hard data is evidence that women's stories are discounted."
The fact that we need a scientific study to prove true what women say about their experiences shows already that there is bias.
Not that asking for hard data itself discounts women's stories.)
posted by muddgirl at 3:38 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my research scientist wife's previous job the student facing administrative roles were filled by women because they 'were better at it'. Coincidentally these positions were far more time intensive and unrewarding than the leadership type admin roles that were given to even junior male faculty. These decisions were made by both male and female senior faculty. This assignment difference had significant implications for the research success of female faculty who had less time for research and their hands of fewer levers of power for things like resources, funding and lab space. The rebellion against this sexism was only just starting in 2010.

On a semi-related note I once sat through a developmental psych seminar where everyone in the room was lamenting that dumb students hold back smart students. It was at that point that I realized I was the only person in the room who had ever failed courses in high school.

Representation matters (but it isn't the whole solution).
posted by srboisvert at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2012


Metafilter: Now I have the option of responding to any of twelve different nitpicks, misattributions, and misunderstandings, and leaving all the rest unanswered.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:54 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Also, just to play devil's advocate, but how do we know that the items on a resume aren't just signalling mechanisms and these scientists have expectations about reverse discrimination in undergraduate science courses or even undergraduate acceptances in general?"

How do we know that this appeal to sophistry isn't a marker for unconscious sexism?

Or: Doesn't that sound a lot less likely to any objective rendering of these results than the blunt fact that demonstrable and quantifiable sexism exists in the hard sciences?

"This is just a shitty thing to say. You don't even explain what in particular from my statement you think is objectionable. But obviously unlike every other poster on Metafilter it's not okay for me to rely on my personal observations."

C'mon, you trotted out a tin duck and it got plinked on the midway. There can be any number of confounding variables regarding the size of the gender gap between sciences, which this study doesn't address, that don't undermine the central finding of this study: demonstrable and quantifiable discrimination against women in science. It read like you were trying to handwave this away with some special pleading about how because it didn't explain every nuance, it clearly wasn't THE explanation, ergo it's not important.

This is a charged topic. Don't expect special deference to unsupported musings.
posted by klangklangston at 3:58 PM on September 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


muddgirl: (Also, the thesis of the link is that "the fact that we HAVE to look for hard data is evidence that women's stories are discounted."
The fact that we need a scientific study to prove true what women say about their experiences shows already that there is bias.
Not that asking for hard data itself discounts women's stories.)


No, it says that anecdata suck, and all narrators are unreliable. Hard data are *always* necessary.
posted by nat at 4:02 PM on September 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


benito.strauss:

I've been looking for that graph all my life. It is a beautiful thing.
Thank you.
posted by bobobox at 4:25 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: There can be any number of confounding variables regarding the size of the gender gap between sciences, which this study doesn't address, that don't undermine the central finding of this study: demonstrable and quantifiable discrimination against women in science.

This exactly.

I work in one of the fields covered by this study and while I never would have denied that straightforward bias must exist on some level, I have always seen it as being secondary to those many confounding variables. I am, honestly, shocked to see such a quantifiable, significant difference in the evaluation of talent and it is disturbing.

Thanks for the post.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 4:30 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article states that "You can say that a study found that absolutely all other factors held equal…", which is of course impossible. No study can hold absolutely all other factors equal. All inferred causal mechanisms are hypothetical. Such bold claims are a disservice to the study.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2012


A related paper is this: How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't. Jump to slide #21 for the reveal.

Have you seen the whole abstract? It seems that "math ability" is only roughly equal at young ages, and by high school or with precocious children, men dominate, which you can see looking at the results of any national mathematics competition — even as early as fifth or sixth grade.

In my opinion, the slideshow makes a very bold claim that is unsupported by the single study that it cites. It should at least mention the above exceptions and explicitly rationalize them as a consequence of social sexism. That might not convince everyone, but it would be a more honest presentation of the weaknesses of the presentation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:56 PM on September 24, 2012


Anonymous resumes, anonymous journal submissions, anonymous test and homework grading. Now. Otherwise, multiply women's scores by about 4.05/3.33. Here's an example of a computer conference that achieved a more-or-less unheard of 25 percent women speakers -- by ranking abstracts anonymously.

Somehow, the people who complain the most about "special treatment" for women in science are never enthusiastic about this idea. You would think they would be, since it's hard to give women special treatment if you can't identify who the women are. It's almost like they have some other agenda.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


I really strongly disagree with the sentiment in that link. Their thesis is essentially that asking for hard data is discounting women's stories.

I agree. Further studies on climate change (ie to what extent it is serious and man-made) are similarly concluding what we already know, but this is not discounting the scientists who have been claiming it is real. It's bolstering a position that some people have a hard time accepting.

Unfortunately, in both cases, people have a hard time believing it because they are to some degree invested in not believing it.
posted by anonymisc at 5:10 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My personal opinion on sexism, which I know is not shared by many people, is that it is a consequence of lazy thinking. Like racism or homophobia, sexism emerges when prejudice circumvents the mental effort required to perceive the individual as he or she truly is.

For that reason, I am not interested in proving that men and women have equal aptitudes at all things, or verifying that given this thesis (for which it is difficult to make a strong case) and then using that as the basis to force society to reflect this hypothesis in numbers of men and women in various positions or at various pay grades.

Similarly, I'm not interested in altering people's biases. Despite being based on a tiny fragment of experience, preconceptions are a natural consequence of experience.

Instead, I think the problem should be attacked by building a more "intelligent" society. This means teaching, starting at a young age, the habit of listening and open-mindedness. It means verifying that the hiring mechanisms for large companies do not lazily prefer top tier schools, but devote sufficient resources to finding "diamonds in the rough". It means research into the interview and salary determination process to find systems that deliver better outcomes with respect to individuals — rather than "social fantasies".
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Though it affects the study in this article only tangentially, I know some people who always bring up in this sort of debate the possibility that women may be seen to be more likely to drop out of the workforce, to put in fewer late nights, to be less likely to pursue the tenure track, etc. -- perhaps mainly because of family. So to such people women would be legitimately less attractive hires based on objective characteristics.

What's the response to that argument?
posted by shivohum at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2012


Women currently can't reproduce without men.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:18 PM on September 24, 2012


If it's "legitimate" to discriminate against women because they may be less able to put in long hours because of pregnancy or family responsibilities, then resumes should be required to include a space for any health issues, right next to the applicant's name. So employers can discriminate against men with disabilities or medical problems that may require time away from work, which would also then be totally legitimate.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:22 PM on September 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


yeah, it's like "Our culture is going to disproportionately place all the responsibility for domestic work, childrearing, and other family caretaking onto women. And then punish those same women for it. Winning!"
posted by KathrynT at 5:25 PM on September 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


Okay, that was shitty and short and actually offensive. Plenty of women reproduce without a male partner.

But the stereotype that women will sacrifice their job for children and men will not is a just a stereotype. In addition to health problems, some people like to take time off work to visit theor aged parents or go run marathons or travel. Should we try to guess based on the name at the top of someone's resume whether they will do that?

Your stereotype may indeed be part of the implicit bias observed in this study, but it is hardly fair to judge all women based on a sterotype you happen to hold.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2012


There is an older experiment that showed a faculty hiring committee consisting entirely of women who'd understood these biases still favored male names when considering average candidates, although they correctly hired the amazing candidates irregardless of gender. There is potentially even a hard wired bias against women as soon as you start looking for an extreme, well this bias matches the fact that males exhibit higher variance in many traits.

In essence, if you were actually brilliant, then you'll get the job, but no you aren't actually brilliant. It's horribly biased against women mostly because every podunk state school imagines they could hire some genius, when actually they could never hire any obviously brilliant faculty even if Bill Gates gives them $100M tomorrow. In fact, they're hiring well into that bell curve's average region that contains more women than men.

We need more objective assessment, gender blind hiring committees, more well defined work hours, etc. African Americans succeeded in professional sports mostly because the assessments were perfectly objective.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:30 PM on September 24, 2012


but it is hardly fair to judge all women based on a sterotype you happen to hold.

Right, I'm not saying it's ethical to do that. I'm asking if there's reason to believe it's an irrational (i.e. baseless) bias.

This is an interesting question: what if a stereotype has truth to it, maybe even applies to the majority of a class of people? Under what circumstances does that make it ok to use in decisions about a person?
posted by shivohum at 5:33 PM on September 24, 2012


Because that stereotype plays up one reason people might miss work, because society has forced childcare upon women, while ignoring all other reasons people might miss work. And that's a shitty thing to do. And as a scientist who is a woman without kids, I am really glad that discriminating against me because of your stereotypes against me is against the law.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:56 PM on September 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: Have you seen the whole abstract?

Yes, I have. I also looked at this newer meta-analysis from 2010.
I understand you are not interested in proving that men and women have equal aptitudes at all things so we don't need to go into this further.

But regarding the graph: even if the difference were much larger there would still be a laughably HUGE overlap! That's what I like about it.
posted by bobobox at 6:03 PM on September 24, 2012


This just in: scientists are dicks (P < 0.001).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:16 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not if you apply a Bonerferroni correction.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:29 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna point to this study, and just say that the gender gap problem isn't a problem of discrimination, it's a problem of the patriarchy of our fundamentally broken society.
posted by cthuljew at 2:47 AM on September 25, 2012


It would be interesting to see the bias numbers for male and female faculty broken out by age group. Is it the old guard that is driving the bias and younger cohorts are less prone to discounting women? Or are all age groups equally biased?
posted by nolnacs at 5:00 AM on September 25, 2012


I'm gonna point to this study, and just say that the gender gap problem isn't a problem of discrimination, it's a problem of the patriarchy of our fundamentally broken society.

I would say that discrimination itself is a "problem of the patriarchy of our society" (whether fundamentally broken or not). That's why we're getting similar problems from women doing the hiring in the study. It's not individual bias/discrimination that's the problem, it's the cultural viewpoint that gets adopted.

Er. Well they're both problems. But the former is a symptom of the latter.

Cthuljew, did you mean to link a different study? That's the same one blogged about in the FPP links.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:24 AM on September 25, 2012


Haha, yeah, I totally meant to link this. Mah bad.

Also, "PNAS". Lolz.
posted by cthuljew at 6:27 AM on September 25, 2012


There is an older experiment that showed a faculty hiring committee consisting entirely of women who'd understood these biases still favored male names when considering average candidates, although they correctly hired the amazing candidates irregardless of gender.

Re women hiring/favoring men, one thing I didn't see discussed is that women, when they are in a field considered somewhat hostile to them, often feel pressured to constantly demonstrate that they are not biased towards women or against men. It's possible some of the women choosing men were doing so precisely for this reason. When your position feels insecure/under assault, you are less likely to take an action that might involve risk to you. You might also feel pressure to prove you are being "fair."

In fact, I often had trouble with older women bosses in some of my earlier jobs, which puzzled me, but now I think that it was partly because they'd been through the wars and weren't eager to get any more crap from anyone or stick out their neck in any way. I also had it easier than they did at the same point, and there was probably some resentment there.

When my mom started working in the 60s, there were still separate want ads for men and women and employers openly discriminated in who got hired or promoted. There was no recourse for sexual harrassment. Living through that can scar a person.
posted by emjaybee at 6:48 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any discussion of the performance of girls/women in maths must talk about stereotype threat. (PDF). In experiments, removing stereotype threat eliminated the performance differences between males and females on math tests.
posted by jb at 8:44 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


When my mom started working in the 60s, there were still separate want ads for men and women

Good God, what a flash back! I have a vague memory as a kid of leafing past sections of "Jobs - Men" and "Jobs - Women" (to get to the Junior Jumble). I wonder when they stopped doing that? I also wonder if there was any opposition at the time?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:41 AM on September 25, 2012


A friend points out that sometimes these biases can be very subtle (and even unintended). She was at a tech conference recently. Within the first few minutes, the emcee announced that there would be no breaks in the four-hour session. People were told just to leave as needed. Now, if you're a man, maybe that's not such a big deal. But if you're a woman, particularly one who's had children, you need to urinate more frequently than men. And the act of using the washroom takes longer, since you need to go into a stall, hang up your purse, reposition your clothing, sit down, and then reverse. You may also have to wait to wash your hands, since others may be applying make-up or doing other grooming in front of the mirror. In this case, there were only two stalls in the women's washroom and the venue (for 150 people) was at a university business school that shared its main floor washroom with all the other services on the same floor. So there was a line up for the women's washroom. She timed her trips to the washroom and they took up to 12 minutes. The men seemed to be back within 2 minutes. She needed to use the washroom 3 times and thus lost about 36 minutes, whereas a man would have lost 6. However, using the washroom when the session broke for lunch also resulted in getting to the lunch line late, meaning she now had a 15-minute line-up for food. By the time she got to the table to eat, a lot of people had left. She ended up sitting at a table of just women. (Which was fine with her, but she did think it interesting.) However, she feels she basically lost an hour of the conference - because of a lack of breaks and because the venue had inadequate washroom facilities for women.

Moreover, during the conference, a young woman stood up and said that she felt it was a struggle to connect with other entrepreneurs on campus, since her university felt very siloed. And the VC who addressed her blasted her and said she wasn't a real entrepreneur if she ran into such problems. Later, when several people expressed to a panel that they felt lack of social capital, cultural expectations, gendered expectations and other issues were blocking access to entrepreneurship, the same VC stood up and blasted these people (many of those who expressed those points were women).

My friend says she is pretty stunned to see stuff like that going on in this era. But she doubts that the organizers or even the VC could see the way the system was working against women. When she noted that there was a lack of networking opportunities at the conference, the men seemed to think she was crazy, whereas the women agreed and also complained that the washroom was impeding their professional development!
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


*6 minutes, but that's assuming he needed to go 3x. He probably went 1-2x.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:08 PM on September 25, 2012


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