Gender-bias impacts women physicists

Aug 03, 2010

While some might argue that the lack of women in physics is down to personal choice or perhaps even biological determinism, Amy Bug, a physicist at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, USA instead claims it could be due to small, unconscious biases in the evaluation of female physicists that can add up to have a significant impact on their careers.

Bug videotaped a series of lectures using professional actors - two male, two female - who posed as physics professors. After the 10 minute lecture, 126 physics students were then asked to fill out a survey evaluating the lecture and the professor's performance.

Detailing her finding in August’s , Bug’s study found that, on average, male professors received higher scores than their female counterparts. The experiment also revealed that there is a distinct from both male and female students when it comes to gender-stereotypical attributes, for example associating a male professor as good with science equipment, and a female professor as more helpful.

Interestingly, Bug found that while female students gave slightly higher marks to the female professors than they did to the men, male students rated the male professors vastly better. Bug’s findings show that not only does the gender of a physics professor determine how lectures are received, but also the student’s gender plays a role as well.

These results are consistent with the theory that people associate different genders with different aptitudes and predilections. Female break such associations prompting a negative perception. Together with small disadvantages such as smaller start-up grants and unequal wages these can accumulate over time and have dramatic consequences on a career.

According to Bug, progress towards more equality will depend on the continuous effort of educational, professional and funding institutions. “Today, the big issues are acknowledging and correcting the implicit bias, workplace policy reform, bringing in students from ethnic minorities, retaining girls between school and college, and seeking equality in the developing world.” writes Bug.

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User comments : 15

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AmyBug
5 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2010
Thanks for picking up this story! Just a small correction and a comment:
1) In this study by Bug, Hoshino-Browne, and Lui, women rated women as more helpful and so on, but men rated men better. A "same gender" bias for certain characteristics like this.
2) I am not able to rule out biology or choice, as the teaser at the top implies. We just hope to point out that there can be bias in evaluations that doesn't come from any authentic ability. This is nothing new in the social sciences! It is new in this particular context, though. Our experiment suggests that biased evaluations are a real piece in the puzzle of how gender affects a physics career.
Thanks for listening!
frajo
not rated yet Aug 04, 2010
These results are consistent with the theory that people associate different genders with different aptitudes and predilections.
A very plausible theory which is confirmed by this study.
I even would go one step further and assume that this association of different genders with different aptitudes and predilections is generated by different expectations and motivations. To put it simpel, male students are less interested in the objective performance of a female physics lecturer and more interested in her female attributes.
A follow-up study should ask the students to not only evaluate the lecturer's performance as lecturer but also to evaluate the lecturer's appearance. I'm sure there is a pronounced (negative) correlation between the two factors for male students and less so for female students.
Gargunzola
not rated yet Aug 04, 2010
There's only one logical conclusion:

Men are better thespians than women
MustaI
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2010
Which users, who are disputing here about physics are women, actually? This could give us an answer to the question of gender-bias of women physicists: they've simply no interest about this subject.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2010
Which users, who are disputing here about physics are women, actually? This could give us an answer to the question of gender-bias of women physicists: they've simply no interest about this subject.
you're wholly ignorant.
MustaI
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 04, 2010
you're wholly ignorant.
Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A's claim is false.

http://www.nizkor...nem.html
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2010
you're wholly ignorant.
Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A's claim is false.

http://www.nizkor...nem.html

MustaI: Women have no interest in physics.
SkepticalHeretic: You're ignorant
MustaI: (changes subject)

You're still ignorant, and from your link, unable to determine what an ad hominem attack is or what constitutes evidence.

Is your name William Lane Craig?
MustaI
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2010
You're apparently male - that's all what I can say about it. I'm still looking for some girl here...
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 04, 2010
You're apparently male - that's all what I can say about it. I'm still looking for some girl here...

Here are just a few female physicists recalled from memory:
Marie Curie, Emma Bakes, Katherine Blodgett, Roberta Bondar, Jenny Bramley, Joyce Burnell, Helen Caldicott, Wendy Dolci, Millie Dresselhaus, Rosa Franklin, Shirley Ann Jackson, Lise Meitner, Ida Noddack, Amy Mainzer, Sally Ride, Vandana Shiva, Valerie Thomas, Kathryn C. Thornton, Sarah Whiting, Sau Lan Wu Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, Maria T. Zuber

MustaI
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2010
Here are just a few female physicists recalled from memory:
Nope, you just used this source (with many spelling errors).

http://www.vbsd.us/GT/Famous Women.pdf

10 Cases of Natural Gender Inequality

http://listverse....quality/
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 04, 2010
Nope, you just used this source (with many spelling errors).

http://www.vbsd.us/GT/Famous Women.pdf
What was that about an ad hominem? If I had used such an extensive list don't you think I would have reproduced it or linked to it. Good job reinforcing the fact that you're a sexist twit though.
Hologram
5 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2010
Is no one here concerned with the methodology and statistics of the study? Using a total of 4 professional actors hardly provides good statistics to claim that the different ratings were due only to gender.

For example, the male actors may have been perceived as more confident instructors not because of gender but because non verbal ques from the actors? This could easily also explain the viewing the females as more helpful.

I'm not saying the study is wrong, but a total of 4 actors is hardly good enough statistics to support such claims.
otto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 04, 2010
You're apparently male - that's all what I can say about it. I'm still looking for some girl here...
Why dont you just make a female sockpuppet? You know, for your hand-
MustaI
1 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2010
..you're a sexist twit though.
The unconscious factors are strong too, though. For example, I'm regularly deleted from there because of notion of dense aether theory, which is considered fringe by many moderators. No one has argument against it, though - it's just a "feeling". Such guys would have nothing against black hole model of Universe, though - albeit both models are very similar. It's just the unconscious religious prejudice, which is driving the thinking of such people.

So we can imagine easily, when some girl will face such prejudices often, it will switch to field of interest, which doesn't suffer such unconscious bias - or she will fall into first category with low field interest profile.
frajo
5 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2010
..you're a sexist twit though.
The unconscious factors are strong too, though.
What's that to do with the quote?
For example, I'm regularly deleted from there because of notion of dense aether theory, which is considered fringe by many moderators.
You are deluding yourself. Your AWT is not the reason why you don't belong here. It is your cheating behaviour, for which you and only you are responsible.
Ceterum censeo MustaI (et al.) expellendum esse.
MustaI
Aug 05, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.