The Gender Bias of Physics

A couple of posts relating to gender issues in physics that I have run across recently.

Scientists, Your Gender Bias Is Showing

To test scientist’s reactions to men and women with precisely equal qualifications, the researchers did a randomized double-blind study in which academic scientists were given application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position. The substance of the applications were all identical, but sometimes a male name was attached, and sometimes a female name.
Results: female applicants were rated lower than men on the measured scales of competence, hireability, and mentoring (whether the scientist would be willing to mentor this student). Both male and female scientists rated the female applicants lower.

*Sigh* For whatever reason I’m having trouble accessing the actual article, so I don’t know if they show how much worse this might be than in general (assuming that there is gender bias elsewhere, and I’m pretty sure there is), and if there is an age component, i.e. is this more of a problem with older folks, who might soon be removing themselves from being part of the problem. However, that’s a small and faint hope, having observed some of the attitudes displayed in some corners of the internets and in the blogohedron, where presumably the age bias might be in the other direction. I recognize that certain types of change might occur on generational time scales, but it’s 2012, and we (well, women, actually) are still dealing with crap like this.

The second post deals with wondering why women stay, and why they drop out of the physics pipeline.

Why I’m Asking Why

I want to know WHY the percentage of women in physics going down. Right now there is a ton of support for women entering physics. We have conferences and mentorship programs all over the nation. But one crucial voice is missing: the women who dropped out of the physics major, and the women who majored in physics but chose to not go on to graduate school. I write this blog because I want to hear from the women who chose not to continue in physics. They are the ones who can shed the true insight! I also want to hear from women who did continue in physics. What made you pick physics, and what made you stay?

2 thoughts on “The Gender Bias of Physics

  1. In the original article they did not find any age bias: “In addition, faculty participants’ scientific field, age, and tenure status had no effect (all P > 0.53). Thus, the bias appears pervasive among faculty and is not limited to a certain
    demographic subgroup.”

    Another interesting point is the starting salary: “The mean starting salary offered the female student, $26,507.94, was significantly lower than that of
    $30,238.10 to the male student [t(124) = 3.42, P < 0.01]"
    That is roughly 12% difference in salary, which is but a tiny bit higher than the gap if the median income in the US is compared (19% difference, according to the US census bureau, 2010 data). So roughly the same ballpark.

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