Why do you think there is a gender gap?

by Jessica Lu on October 30, 2012

A new sociological study has been released surveying male and female scientists to find out what they say about the gender gap in sciences. A nice summary of the work is given in the blog post below (re-posts by  Women in Astronomy and  John Johnson brought it to my attention). The quotes from the interviews of “elite scientists” are very interesting.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous October 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I’m male, and I find it surprising how rarely my fellow men are willing to believe that even unconscious biases and cultural impacts marginalize women in astronomy/physics. And even among those that do, it can be an uphill battle to convince them that we need to do anything about it – it seems to often be driven by the belief that this would destroy the fabled perfect meritocracy of science. I’m sure women see this far more than I do, and even fairly advanced women leave in frustration due to this. (I personally know at least two examples of this – a postdoc with faculty offers, and a tenured professor.) I certainly wouldn’t want to continue if every time I presented data in my field of expertise, people from other fields said “well, I’m not an expert like you are, but I think you’re wrong, anyway.” Time and time again I see this from men talking to women about these issues.

While it’s better in astronomy than physics (I got my PhD in a physics department), probably because women are more visible in the field, it’s still a clear undercurrent. Furthermore, this blog is probably not the best statistical sample, as it generally seems to me the commenters are of the more progressive bent. Still would be good to hear what people have to say, though!

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2 Edwin Kite October 31, 2012 at 3:31 am

One starting point is the Larry Summers speech. Here’s the speech: http://www.harvard.edu/president/speeches/summers_2005/nber.php

Here’s my attempt at a rebuttal: http://www.quora.com/Larry-Summers/Was-Larry-Summers-women-in-science-speech-on-the-money

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3 Eva October 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I don’t see why maternity issues and unconscious bias would affect physics and biology departments differently, this points to cultural differences among the two disciplines. It is a fact that there are many more women working in biological sciences at all levels, and this is probably due to cultural differences as well. The saddest part is how clear it is that the problem is not being addressed in any serious manner in most physics department.

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4 Evan Tilton November 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm

The Buzzfeed summary linked above is kinda crappy, and it seems to pick and choose the most offensive quotes while ignoring the analysis as a whole (that’s not to say that the study didn’t find some somewhat disappointing trends, though). I suggest reading the actual paper instead of a much more poorly written and incomplete news blurb.

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