Are you sexist?

Melissa Schmitz, Staff Writer

I’ll bet that most of you will say, “no”. Which is reasonable, considering the taboo associated with discrimination towards either gender. However, new research suggests that everyone, including women, show a bias in academia that favors men.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising. According to an article written earlier this year in Forbes magazine, women make between 67 and 77 cents per male-earned dollar. This 20-30 cent difference may seem trivial, but let me break that down for you. Assuming these statistics apply to all professions, a male making $150,000 annually would have a female counterpart in the same job making just $109,500.

Data released from the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2006 showed that the average income of a male with a doctorate degree was $103,939 whereas that of a female with a doctorate was $67,676. That comes out to a 35-cents less per dollar. So, women have made some progress, if only 5-15 cents worth.  However, that’s only considering a doctorate’s degree. That data also showed that men make an average of $19,746 with education lower than ninth grade level. For a woman to catch up to that pay scale, she would need a high school diploma. But pay is not the only variable to consider.

According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, only one in seven engineers are female and, additionally, there has been no significant employment growth for women in STEM fields since 2000. Eileen Pollack,  a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa physics graduate with honors from Yale. In her younger years she spent her time reading about the universe and teaching herself calculus because her high school principal believed, “Girls never go on in science and math,” and so she was prevented from taking those courses with male classmates. Yet, as it turns out, her high school principal was right. After graduation she chose not to go into physics.

Why would she waste a degree that was so difficult to earn? In an article she wrote for the New York Times, she discussed the struggle she faced as the only female in her classes, in terms of being alienated from study groups and even in terms of the pressure to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously. “Mostly, though,” she explained, “I didn’t go on in physics because not a single professor — not even the adviser who supervised my senior thesis — encouraged me to go to graduate school.”

Is this really a surprise, though? When asked to draw what a scientist looks like, a child tends to draw a man. Not to say that’s conclusive, but it leads us to think about how those biases carry on to adulthood. In 2010 a multidisciplinary study at Yale documenting gender bias in science. Two identical resumes for students, each with bachelor’s degrees looking for employment as a lab manager were sent to 127 professors, however half received one from “Jennifer” and the other half from “John”. The information on the resumes showed that both had sufficient credentials, although neither was overwhelmingly persuasive. The participants were asked to rate John or Jennifer on a scale of one to seven for hire-ability, like-ability, competence, and the extent the professor may be willing to mentor the student, as well as the salary that they’d be willing to offer. Jennifer was rated an average of half a point lower than John in all categories except like-ability, where she scored almost half a point higher. Additionally, John was offered a salary 13 percent higher than Jennifer across the board.

To the surprise of many in academia, it appears true that women, just as much as men, show a gender bias. Women, even to other women, are viewed as less competent than men. So I ask you again, are you sexist? Most likely, you are, unintentionally, and this bias translates into women not getting the proper encouragement to pursue careers in these male-dominated fields. I encourage you to read the entire article written by Eileen Pollack in the New York Times entitled, “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” to get a more thorough look at this subject.