Gender bias in the sciences?
November 20, 2012 in Research
Researchers at Yale have conducted an experiment with results that suggest that science faculty members are sexist.
In the researchers’ experiment, half of the faculty members received a resume from a male named John while the other half of the faculty members received a resume from a female named Jennifer. John and Jennifer’s resumes were exactly the same with the exception of their names.
When researchers asked the faculty members whether they would hire John based on his resume and Jennifer based on her resume, researchers found that faculty members were significantly more likely to hire John over Jane and give John a higher salary.
Women in Science at Yale held a forum to discuss the paper.
Priyamvada Natarajan, an astronomy and physics prof at Yale, thinks that there are biases and prejudices in play. Merry Urry, the chair of Yale’s physics department, noted that only 4 of her 34 members in her department are female. Colleen Flynn, a reporter at Yale Daily News, seemed to treat Urry’s words as evidence that biases and prejudices are in play in the sciences at Yale.
Yet, there’s the question of whether biases and prejudices are really the reason that only 4 of Yale’s 34 physics department members are female. Are females simply, on average, not as good at physics as males are? There are gender differences that are biological in nature. Researchers have linked spatial skills to the amount of gray matter in the brain. Men generally have more gray matter than females do. Does this gray matter give men an advantage in physics?
Oddly, though, according to Rana Dajani, a molecular biologist at Hashemite University, the Arab world has a nearly equal number of males and females in the sciences. This contrasts Yale’s physics department significantly. Dajani wants to give John and Jennifer’s resumes to faculty members in the Arab world. Would there be a difference in whom people choose to hire?
I would like to examine the brains of American physicists and Arabic physicists. Are there any differences in the amount of gray matter that male physicists of different cultures have? Are there any differences in the amount of gray matter that female physicists of different cultures have?
To what extent are spatial skills innate? To what extent might culture limit one’s spatial skills? To what extent are spatial skills necessary in physics?
Source of image: “Because I’m a Man…”: Sexism in the 21st Century