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Monday, December 31, 2012

Essay on Bias Persists for Women of Science

Critique of Bias Persists for Women of Science

For centuries women have been deemed less competent and less worthy in their chosen fields as compared to their sterner counterpart. Although numerous movements have been done to uplift the status of women in society, women still experience discrimination, albeit in a more subtle form, to this day. 

Surprisingly even the advanced field of Science has not done away with the prevailing bias against women. A study done by researchers at Yale have found that Professors of Science from several American universities (regardless of their gender) view female undergraduates as generally less competent than male undergraduates, even though  they present the same set of accomplishments and skills (Chang, par. 1). 

The internet article done by Kenneth Chang (2012) for the New York Times reported that the study has concluded the source of the prevailing bias against women in the field of science stems from subconscious cultural influences rather than overt discrimination. The article also goes to solicit different opinions from experts on said field as to the possible effects/implications of the study.

The article was able to deliver the specifics of the research quite accurately. For example, mentioning that in order to avoid complications within the study brought about by numerous “host factors” (such as whether women receive preferential treatment or whether inborn differences really do exist between the two sexes), the researchers opted for a basic research design.  

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However, although the news article was able to discuss the technicalities of the research quite thoroughly it was unable to discuss the study in-depth. There were actually several hypotheses that the study sought to test (four to be exact) and the article was only able to discuss one, Hypotheses A – “Science faculty’s perceptions and treatment of students would reveal a gender bias favoring male students in perceptions of competence and hireability, salary conferral, and willingness to mentor” (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham and Handelsman par. 10). The other 3 hypotheses the study sought to test were Hypothesis B – “Faculty gender would not influence this gender bias”, Hypothesis C – “Hiring discrimination against the female student would be mediated (explained) by faculty perceptions that a female student is less competent than an identical male student”, and Hypothesis D – “Participants’ preexisting subtle bias against women would moderate (i.e., impact) results” (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham and Handelsman par. 10). In addition the article was not able to discuss another significant part of the study which is determining the processes that contribute to the formation of such bias.

It is good to note however that while the article was unable to define and explain properly the other important aspects of the study, it was able to present the results of the study to the readers in a manner easily understandable. The article reported that in a scale of 1 to 7 (7 being the highest), the male applicant was given a higher rating of 4 as compared to his female counterpart who was only given 3.3. The male applicant was also more likely to be hired for laboratory work or for mentoring. 

Another good point in the article was the insights given by the researches themselves about the findings of their study. According to Dr. Handelsman, one of the senior authors of the study, although previous reports had shown similar results regarding the subconscious bias in other fields, other scientists have responded that scientists should “rise above” such concerns because they were trained to analyze data objectively. 

It should be noted though that while the news article seems to point out the gender bias against females in the field of academic science, the study only used undergrad applicants to test their hypothesis. It is wise to remember that perhaps being an “undergrad” could have affected the perception and decision of the participants of the study due to the fact their competence have yet to be established (by accomplishments) in their chosen fields. 

Cited Works

Chang, Kenneth. "Bias Persists Against Women of Science, a Study Says -" The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 24 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 Dec. 2012. <>.

Moss-Racusin, Corinne A., John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman. "Science faculty?s subtle gender biases favor male students." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. N.p., 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 Dec. 2012. <>.

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