Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Help! I'm Sexist!


The research studies I posted last Friday about the role gender plays in the STEM workplace paint a consistent picture: women face significant discrimination. Women are paid (and hired, and tenured) less than men with the same qualifications, and these gender differences are particularly large for parents. While women are often encouraged to address the existing disparities by advocating for themselves (e.g., by being assertive, negotiating, or encouraging diversity), research shows this type of behavior typically incurs a further penalty.

Instead, gender disparities in the STEM workplace are a problem that the entire community must address. Hiring managers need to hire more women. Managers need to promote more women. And peers need to accept diverse communication styles without the lens of gender.

Importantly, however, this does not just mean that MEN need to hire (and promote, and accept) more. Because the other consistent picture that arose from the studies I posted on Friday is that both men AND WOMEN discriminate against women. We all have deep seated biases that contribute to the problem.

Project Implicit at Harvard offers a number of online tests that allow individuals to explore their implicit biases, two of which focus on gender (gender and career and gender and science). When I took the tests, they showed that I am not immune to gendered interpretations:
Your data suggest a strong association of Male with Career and Female with Family compared to Female with Career and Male with Family.
This didn't surprise me, although I secretly hoped my results would come out otherwise. I think only my strong personal association as a female scientist enabled me overcome a strong internalized societal bias for the gender and science study:
Your data suggest a slight association of Female with Science and Male with Liberal Arts compared to Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts.
My results remind me that gender discrimination is not just something I need to fight in others -- but something I need to fight in myself. Help me out by changing the stories I see, by pointing out where I can do better, and by figuring out where you can do better, too!

21 comments:

  1. It is true that women faces alot of discrimination at work place and are paid less, are harassed. It will only change if we change our thinking.

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