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There May Be Another Reason Women Aren’t Scientists

Up until now, it hasn't been much of a secret that there are fewer women in high-paying STEM fields. This contributes to the gender pay gap and is made worse by the fact that young girls and women are less likely to be encouraged to enter into these careers. However, a new study has found that there may be another, more disappointing reason that there are fewer female than male scientists.

Women in biological, life and physical sciences face a number of challenges, but  a new challenge was recently noted in a study from Ohio State University. While it’s true that men outnumber women in these fields, researchers also found that scientific articles with male authors were viewed as higher quality than those by female authors. As if that weren't a big enough punch in the face, people would also rather collaborate with their male co-workers in these fields than the female ones.

Scientist in laboratory

In the study, a questionnaire on gender role attributes was given to 243 communication graduate students. The students were asked to evaluate abstracts which were gendered “feminine” topics such as body image and “male” topics like political journalism. They also threw in a bunch of “neutral” topics such as health communication whose genders were basically anonymous. The participants then rated the abstracts on qualities which ranged from “by competent authors” to “reflective of expertise.

Unfortunately, the results showed that both men and women viewed the work of male authors to be of higher quality and more publishable. Unless the article was written by a male on a topic considered to be feminine, but even in those cases, people still wanted to collaborate with males. The only instance in which people were more likely to collaborate with women occurred when the article was written by a woman on a masculine topic.

Nina Bahadur notes that the findings further “confirm the bias against women in STEM.” In addition to already receiving fewer research grants, lower salaries, and less encouragement to pursue the field in the first place, women must also battle the idea that their work in these fields is somehow of lesser quality. File this under just one more challenge to add to the battles that women have in the field of science – it appears as though we have quite a ways to go.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Why do you think the work of male scientists is viewed as higher quality? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments!

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 (Photo Credit: By Diane A. Reid via Wikimedia Commons) 

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