Sexism in Science
September 28, 2012
There are few women in most fields of science, and in engineering and mathematics. The reason for this might be that women are smarter than men, so they make better career choices. Of course, there are many advantages in working in STEM fields, so much so that we forget its biggest disadvantage. You're never a scientist just from 9-to-5. You're a scientist every waking moment of the day; and, as often happens, in the sleeping moments, when you're dreaming,
Richard Feynman was a prime example of this. While having lunch at the Cornell University cafeteria, Feynman observed someone throwing a plate into the air. That was before ubiquitous Styrofoam, so the plate was a china plate with the Cornell University emblem. Feynman noticed that the rotation rate of the emblem (and, therefore, the plate) was half the wobble rate, and he derived equations as to why that was true. I wonder if he remembered to eat his lunch.
There are enough women scientists, engineers and mathematicians that they have their own organizations. Here are the largest:
• Association for Women in Science (AWIS)
I've written articles about a few women scientists, as follows:
• Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)
• Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
• Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science (GWIS)
• Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG)
• National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)
• Lynn Margulis (Lynn Margulis, November 28, 2011
Dresselhaus said that her own role model was another woman scientist, Rosalyn Yalow, who taught physics at Hunter College while Dresselhaus was a student there. Before being mentored by Yalow, Dresselhaus never thought she could become a physicist. Yalow was awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the development of radioimmunoassay.
A woman computer scientist is a principal character of my novel, Mother Wode, and she isn't there just as eye candy. She holds her own with the men in her life, but such a relationship between women scientists and their male counterparts is a very recent phenomenon.
• Maria Goeppert-Mayer (Maria Goeppert Mayer, Sept. 9, 2011
• Mildred Dresselhaus (Ms. Carbon,March 12, 2007)
(Image: Caroline Herschel taking notes on March 13, 1781, as her brother, William discovers Uranus. Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Moving forward, we have the archetypal woman scientist, Marie Sklodowska-Curie, who shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband, Pierre, for their work with radioactive elements. Pierre died in 1907, and Marie went on to receive the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her isolation of radium.
The question arises as to whether the dearth of women in STEM fields is a consequence of their personal inclination or societal forces. A recently published paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provides evidence that there is a bias against women in science.[2-3] Lest we place all the blame on the men, it turns out that female scientists are also biased against women. It's interesting to note that the female authors of this paper outnumber their male coauthors three to two.
This study, conducted by researchers from various departments at Yale University, asked 127 biology, chemistry and physics professors to evaluate student applications for a hypothetical laboratory manager position. They were asked to to give useful feedback to the students on such issues as potential salary, competence and hireability, but the real purpose was to collect data for the study. Identical applications were crafted, except that half of the professors were given an application with a male name, and the other half were given one with a female name.
Not surprisingly, the male students were scored better. Quoting from the abstract of the PNAS paper,
|Several centuries ago, the only women practicing science were the wives, daughters and sisters who acted as assistants to their scientist kin. When the male scientist died, many of their female kin continued their work, sometimes publishing still in the man's name, or finding an established scientist who would promote publication in the woman's own name.|
Caroline Herschel, the sister of the astronomer, William Herschel, was such an important part of her brother's observations that she received a small salary from King George III, and she was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.
"Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant."
Surprisingly, female professors were just as harsh on the female students.
"The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student."
The difference in ranking was quite pronounced. On a scale of 0-5, the male student scored 4.01 to the female student's 3.33. The female professors were harsher to the women as far a salary was concerned, recommending $25,000 against the male applicant's $29,333. The male professors opted for a ($30,520 male/$27,111 female) split.
In their conclusions, the study authors write,
"It is noteworthy that female faculty members were just as likely as their male colleagues to favor the male student. The fact that faculty members' bias was independent of their gender, scientific discipline, age and tenure status suggests that it is likely unintentional, generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious effort to harm women."
- Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!," W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1985 (via Amazon); see also, this quotation from the book.
- Scott Jaschik, "Smoking Gun on Sexism?," Inside Higher Education, September 21, 2012
- Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham and Jo Handelsman, "Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 17, 2012; a PDF copy of the paper can be accessed here.
Permanent Link to this article
Linked Keywords: Science; engineering; mathematics; STEM fields; 9-to-5; dream; Richard Feynman; Cornell University; cafeteria; dish; plate; Styrofoam; bone china; Cornell University emblem; rotation rate; equation; Association for Women in Science (AWIS); Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM); Society of Women Engineers (SWE); Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science (GWIS); Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG); National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT); Lynn Margulis; Maria Goeppert-Mayer; Mildred Dresselhaus; Rosalyn Yalow; physics; Hunter College; physicist; Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; radioimmunoassay; eye candy; wife; wives; daughter; sister; Caroline Herschel; astronomer; William Herschel; King George III; Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society; Royal Astronomical Society; Uranus; Wikimedia Commons; archetype; archetypal; Marie Sklodowska-Curie; Nobel Prize in Physics; Pierre Curie; radioactive element; Nobel Prize in Chemistry; radium; biochemist; Florence Barbara Seibert (1897-1991); tine test; skin reaction test; tuberculosis; University of Pennsylvania; norm; societal forces; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; sexism; gender bias; Yale University; biology; chemistry; physics; professor; laboratory; manager; salary; Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Latest Books by Dev Gualtieri
Thanks to Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing for his favorable review of Secret Codes!
Blog Article Directory on a Single Page
- Soybean Graphene - March 23, 2017
- Income Inequality and Geometrical Frustration - March 20, 2017
- Wireless Power - March 16, 2017
- Trilobite Sex - March 13, 2017
- Freezing, Outside-In - March 9, 2017
- Ammonia Synthesis - March 6, 2017
- High Altitude Radiation - March 2, 2017
- C.N. Yang - February 27, 2017
- VOC Detection with Nanocrystals - February 23, 2017
- Molecular Fountains - February 20, 2017
- Jet Lag - February 16, 2017
- Highly Flexible Conductors - February 13, 2017
- Graphene Friction - February 9, 2017
- Dynamic Range - February 6, 2017
- Robert Boyle's To-Do List for Science - February 2, 2017
- Nanowire Ink - January 30, 2017
- Random Triangles - January 26, 2017
- Torricelli's law - January 23, 2017
- Magnetic Memory - January 19, 2017
- Graphene Putty - January 16, 2017
- Seahorse Genome - January 12, 2017
- Infinite c - January 9, 2017
- 150 Years of Transatlantic Telegraphy - January 5, 2017
- Cold Work on the Nanoscale - January 2, 2017
- Holidays 2016 - December 22, 2016
- Ballistics - December 19, 2016
- Salted Frogs - December 15, 2016
- Negative Thermal Expansion - December 12, 2016
- Verbal Cues and Stereotypes - December 8, 2016
- Capacitance Sensing - December 5, 2016
- Gallium Nitride Tribology - December 1, 2016
- Lunar Origin - November 27, 2016
- Pumpkin Propagation - November 24, 2016
- Math Anxiety - November 21, 2016
- Borophene - November 17, 2016
- Forced Innovation - November 14, 2016
- Combating Glare - November 10, 2016
- Solar Tilt and Planet Nine - November 7, 2016
- The Proton Size Problem - November 3, 2016
- Coffee Acoustics and Espresso Foam - October 31, 2016
- SnIP - An Inorganic Double Helix - October 27, 2016
- Seymour Papert (1928-2016) - October 24, 2016
- Mapping the Milky Way - October 20, 2016
- Electromagnetic Shielding - October 17, 2016
- The Lunacy of the Cows - October 13, 2016
- Random Coprimes and Pi - October 10, 2016
- James Cronin (1931-2016) - October 6, 2016
- The Ubiquitous Helix - October 3, 2016
- The Five-Second Rule - September 29, 2016
- Resistor Networks - September 26, 2016
- Brown Dwarfs - September 22, 2016
- Intrusion Rheology - September 19, 2016
- Falsifiability - September 15, 2016
- Fifth Force - September 12, 2016
- Renal Crystal Growth - September 8, 2016
- The Normality of Pi - September 5, 2016
- Metering Electrical Power - September 1, 2016
Deep Archive 2006-2008