Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Women in the sciences, continued

As a follow-up on yesterday's post about gender bias in the sciences, another Inside Higher Ed artice published today, "Bias or Interest?," discusses preliminary, unpublished results from a study of gender bias in academia

"Unpublished data, however, suggest that most professors don’t agree that discrimination — intentional or otherwise — is the main reason that men hold so many more positions than do women in the sciences. Professors overwhelmingly
think it’s a matter of men and women having different interests.

The data come from a national survey of 1,500 professors at all kinds of institutions in the United States. Two sociologists — Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University — conducted the survey on a range of social and political issues. While they have not yet finished their analysis, they agreed to release the data on women and science because of the interest generated by the National Academies’ study. "

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At 9:53 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Obviously we don't have the full analysis yet, but I think querying professors who are already in place in a field is not the most accurate way to measure reasons women don't hold more positions in the sciences. Those who are already in the sciences, or in academia, have already overcome any struggles on their way there. What about the women who didn't end up in the sciences, but were interested previously? There is such a firm building on in math and science - if a girl has already been strongly discouraged in middle or high school, she may lose interest well before the point at which the data was collected.

My own favorite story of this is an early advisor in college who strongly discouraged me from taking an upper level calc class I was well-prepared for. I was told that I was not in college to learn math, but to become a better conversationalist at parties. When I brought back an A on my first exam, he told me that if I had taken the lower-level class, it would have been an A+. I switched advisors, but how many women give up in the face of this kind of attitude?

At 12:32 PM, Blogger BeckyJ said...

You make an excellent point (plus, I think calculus makes a great conversational topic!). The NAS report examines attrition at each point in the educational process - Chapter 3, "Examining persistence and attrition," notes, "While there are field differences in pattern of attrition, more women than men leave at nearly every stage of the career trajectory. Fewer high school senior girls than boys state a desire to major in science or engineering in college. Girls who state such an intention are likelier than comparable boys to change their plans before arriving at college. Once in college, women and men show a similar persistence to degree, but women science and engineering majors are less likely than men to enter graduate school."


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