Study of accreditation exams reveals biases actually favor women in STEM positions

July 29, 2016 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with the Paris School of Economics in France has conducted an analysis of competitive exam results that are used as a basis for hiring teachers in that country and has found that there exists a bias toward grading women higher in traditionally male-dominated fields. In their paper published in the journal Science, Thomas Breda and Mélina Hillion describe their study and results, and suggest that policies that target female students at an early age be modified to reflect the reality that young women face when considering a career in one of the sciences.

There has been a lot of discussion in the education and employment fields over the past few years regarding the disproportionate number of males in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) positions in many countries around the world. Some have suggested that the imbalance is a problem that needs to be addressed because it limits opportunities for women. Some have also suggested that the imbalance occurs because of male based biases in hiring practices. In this new effort, the research pair sought to discover whether this holds true for educational institutions.

In France, those seeking teaching positions from grade school through college must take competitive exams—the exams have two parts, written and oral. The researchers obtained exam results from 10,000 applicants covering 11 different fields—some STEM, and some not STEM. For the study, the written parts of exams were graded with names hidden to prevent . Gender identification with oral grading was, of course, identifiable by graders. The implication was that the proportional numbers of people of a given passing the exams would be an accurate measure of the proportion of people of a given gender that would land a job as a teacher in their chosen field.

Analyzing their data, the researchers were surprised to find that the gender bias that existed was actually in favor of the female students taking tests in STEM fields—they ranked it in the 10th percentile, which suggests women would have a leg up in being hired in their chosen fields. Interestingly, they also found a small gender bias for males taking exams in traditionally female-dominated fields.

The researchers conclude by suggesting that their results indicate that policies aimed at encouraging to enter STEM fields should focus on the girls who are still too young to have made any career plans.

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7 comments

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ForFreeMinds
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2016
You'd think the researchers would have made recommendations to remove the gender bias from the tests. Instead, they suggest "policies aimed at encouraging young women to enter STEM fields should focus on the girls who are still too young to have made any career plans." One would also think, that putting less qualified women into STEM teaching positions isn't doing any student any favors and is actually discriminating against more qualified male teachers.

Is it really in our interests to have the government "encouraging" people to enter certain fields? We have to pay for this. While I believe all schools should be teaching kids about different careers, taking their parents money to push them into a certain field has a stamp of tyranny on it when you compare it to letting individuals decide.

I guess the researchers' government funding is dependent upon recommending more government, which is what led to this recommendation.
rrrander
not rated yet Jul 29, 2016
And Europeans wonder why Asia is crushing them economically these days.
addibhai45
not rated yet Jul 31, 2016
Study of accreditation exams reveals biases actually favor women in STEM positions
jerryjbrown
3 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2016
The percentage of men vs. women and their interest in the STEM fields should be the only number used. More men than women have an interest in this. As many careers, like construction, law enforcement, automotive repair and a host of other jobs. It's not that woman can't do these jobs, it's just that they aren't drawn to do so.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2016
One would also think, that putting less qualified women into STEM teaching positions isn't doing any student any favors and is actually discriminating against more qualified male teachers.


The word "bias" is actually not used in the article in the sense of "biased", but simply to mean that women scored higher in the tests. I.e. the results bias towards hiring women, instead of the tests being biased in favor of women. That means the researchers correctly identified the problem: women aren't present in STEM because they do worse at it than men in it, but because they're discouraged from pursuing the career earlier in life.

The article headline is just deliberately mis-interpreting that message for a clickbait. There's a disrepancy between what the headline says and what the study is actually saying - which is more commonly known as "spin and propaganda".

epoxy
Jul 31, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
BSD
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2016
The word "bias" is actually not used in the article in the sense of "biased", but simply to mean that women scored higher in the tests. I.e. the results bias towards hiring women, instead of the tests being biased in favour of women.

No, the article means exactly as it reads, thus:
.....an analysis of competitive exam results that are used as a basis for hiring teachers in that country and has found that there exists a bias toward grading women higher in traditionally male-dominated fields.


There is a bias toward women by grading them higher , meaning if the answer was the same, but written by a male candidate, he will be graded lower.

It can't mean anything else, Ma'am.

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