Gender bias affects female scientists

By Brandon Smith

Science has proven that gender bias is affecting the pay disparity between men and women working in scientific fields, according to a recent study.

Erin Cadwalader, a public policy fellow of the Association for Women in Science, believes there is a problem with the general atmosphere of scientific institutions.

Cadwalader noted a recent Yale University study, “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Sept. 25 issue. She said the study showed a 12.5 percent pay gap between men and women in scientific fields.

“Women are getting degrees and then dropping out of the field,” she said. “[But] pay disparity is the biggest issue.”

Difference in pay is not the only reason women leave scientific fields. Cadwalader said review boards that are largely made of men tend to hire more men and tend to select men instead of women for awards of recognition.

“We have looked specifically at scientific societies, and in those societies, you receive recognition for your scholarly achievements,” she said. “We found that women were under-recognized based on the available pool of women for their achievements, but they were over-recognized relatively, in fields of servicing, mentoring and teaching, which are seen as feminine domains.”

While pay inequality and a lack of scholarly recognition are heavy contributors to a glass ceiling in scientific fields, the study also showed an implicit bias among faculty when hiring new potential female colleagues.

“Some experimental evidence suggests that even though evaluators report liking women more than men, they judge women as less competent than men even if they have identical backgrounds,” the study said.

Juliet Bond, an instructor in Columbia’s Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, believes the bias is consistent in both American and global culture.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing for hundreds of years,” she said. “People think women aren’t as capable as men, or they’re a distraction in the workplace, or in some cases one woman may feel competition from another woman.”

Pangratios Papacosta, a professor in the Science and Mathematics Department, said he does not see the disparity between men and women that exists in the U.S. in other countries.

“In Brazil, I have colleagues who are professors of both genders, and they do not distinguish between genders,” Papacosta said. “The salaries are all standard and are the same.”

Despite the attitude that may be projected toward women in professional settings, some are optimistic that there are ways to advance womens credibility in science.

“I think there is a balance that needs to be found,” Cadwalader said. “People who hold opinions of preferring [that] women stay in the kitchen will slowly drop out of consciousness. [When] more progressive young minds come into power, there will be a shift.”