Background Gender and Science


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Gender Gap in Science

  • Science, technology, math and engineering fields suffer from a troubling gender gap, many experts argue. The European Commission (EC), for example, reports that fewer than 32% of Europe’s career researchers are women.
  • The tricky thing about discrimination is that it isn’t always intentional. Researchers use a task called the Implicit Association Test to determine how unconsciously biased a person is. In the case of women and science, people might be asked to very quickly associate words like “woman” or “wife” with terms like “astronomy” or “physics.”
  • Across 34 countries, 70 percent of people are quicker to associate male terms with science than female terms, according to a study published in 2009 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This unconscious bias may suppress the hiring of women in scientific careers, writes Stanford University neurobiologist Jennifer Raymond in a Nature op-ed.

Boys and Girls and Science

  • Once again the cause for poor performances of girls in highschools is said to be environmental. This is nothing new. The last round of math test results from the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) had similar results. In a number of countries 15-year-old girls matched or outnumbered their male counterparts at the top. Genetically, the tests showed, girls are extremely capable mathematicians. Researchers then found that “countries with the poorest degrees of gender equality also have the widest gulfs between male and female mathematical performance.”
  • The US Department of Education has found that girls “who have a strong self-concept regarding their abilities in math or science are more likely to choose and perform well in elective math and science courses and to select math and science-related college majors and careers”.
  • The department emphasizes that: “improving girls’ beliefs about their abilities could alter their choices and performance … particularly as they move out of elementary school and into middle and high school.”




Become Aware of Your Unconscious Biases