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Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students - PNAS Study

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A recent study from PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) regarding reasons for the gender disparity in academia.

From the abstract (emphasis added):

Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science... In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. 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. 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. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent.

Key points of the full paper [PDF]:

  • Nationwide sample of biology, chemistry, and physics professors
  • Biological sex differences in inherent aptitude for math and science are small or nonexistent
  • It's unclear whether lifestyle choices are a primary factor in the disparity between men and women
  • Discrimination is often "subtle," and not necessarily driven by a conscious desire to impede the progress of women
  • Both male and female professors were asked to rate potential hires on: competence, hireability, how much mentoring they deserved, and salary deserved.
  • Both men and women professors rated males higher


You can run all the studies and awareness campaigns you want, but academia will always be a boys' club, baby!


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