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Can We Prove Gender Bias?

Tuesday 21 July 2015 at 1:34 pm.

It’s hard to explain and prove why gender bias exists. There are so many other factors resulting in less women in science. It’s hard to know if there even is a bias, or maybe women just aren’t as interested in these fields, or their lifestyles lead them away from leadership positions. We can show that there are different outcomes between men and women. Men are usually hired over women, fewer women reach long term positions, a large gender gap exists in publications, but those are all outcomes, there has been no way to eliminate all other variables, and solely look at gender. You cannot find two identical people—same interests, intelligence, lifestyle, goals, etc.—that are differentiated only by their genders. This situation does not exist in the real world. However, a new study from Yale University has proved the there is a “natural” gender bias, and they have put it to the test. 

 The researchers created two identical applications and resumes. They were application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position who intended to go on to graduate school. Half the scientists were given a resume with a male name, the other had a female name attached. The results were astounding.

The “women” applicants were “rated significantly lower than the ‘males’ in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student. The scientists also offered lower starting salaries to the ‘female’ applicants: $26,507.94 compared to the $30,238.10 [the men were given]” (Ilana Yurkiewicz). Seriously, just from their name, the scientists could judge whether that person would be able to be mentored. This is what our generation has to deal with. It wasn’t just the men who produced such sexist behavior either, women have to catch themselves on how they treat other females too.  

“Whenever the subject of women in science comes up, there are people fiercely committed to the idea that sexism does not exist. They will point to everything and anything else to explain differences while becoming angry and condescending if you even suggest that discrimination could be a factor. But these people are wrong. This data shows they are wrong. And if you encounter them, you can now use this study to inform them they’re wrong. You can say that a study found that absolutely all other factors held equal, females are discriminated against in science. Sexism exists. It’s real. Certainly, you cannot and should not argue it’s everything. But no longer can you argue it’s nothing” (Ilana Yurkiewicz).

To some people, you may look at this study and think, “It’s a shame women aren’t hired as much as men, but there are so many jobs out there, women can just find another one.” But it’s not all about the job, if you say to a women, I don’t like your work or I won’t hire you because of your gender, it’s easier for women to dismiss the comment, reject the biased person and not take them or that comment seriously. However, most people don’t say their honest opinion, they may not even know that they are biased. They will instead say, “I won’t hire you because you’re not competent enough.” And this is the problem. It’s easier to accept this comment as true, rather than an obviously biased opinion. This makes these women seem like they aren’t good enough and not competent, despite all the work and time they have put into it. And for a lot of women, for some men too, it’s harder to forget these comment, you may always have these thoughts in the back of your mind, just because of one person’s rude, biased comment.

The way to stop this is to SPREAD THE WORD! Tell people about this study. Some people may not even realize that they are bias. Even in little ways, like a teacher only looking at male students when talking about science or math. Tell what is happening and what needs to change. If this is what our generation is left with, we can work through it, as long as we accept that this is a problem. The first step to solving your problem, is admitting that you have one.