Bias Still an Issue for Women in Science, Study Finds

A new study
conducted by researchers at Yale University concluded that bias against women still dominates the scientific fields, with professors regarding women in a less positive light than their male counterparts.

The study found that when given a choice between a male and female candidate with the same skills and accomplishments, male candidates were rated as more competent than their female competitors.

As a result, professors were less willing to offer the female candidate a job or mentorship. In cases where the female candidate would be offered one or the other, their suggested starting salary was also lower.

Female professors were, surprisingly, just as likely as male professors to be biased against female undergraduates. The bias also prevailed equally no matter the scientific field.

“I think we were all just a little bit surprised at how powerful the results were — that not only do the faculty in biology, chemistry and physics express these biases quite clearly, but the significance and strength of the results was really quite striking,” said Jo Handelsman, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale.

Professors in six American universities, three private and three public, were contacted for the study. All professors received the same one-page summary that presented a mythical applicant.

Half the applicants were named John and the other half were named Jennifer.

127 professors responded, putting the study response at 30%. On a scale of 1 to 7 with 7 being the highest, John scored an average of 4 for competency among the professors while Jennifer scored an average of 3.3.

John was also more likely to receive a job or mentorship, with his average starting salary at $30,328. Jennifer was less likely to receive the same offers and had a lower average starting salary of $26,508.

Bias against women in science has long been a topic of debate, with arguments for and against either side. Many still believe that preferential treatment for either gender is gradually fading away.