Scoping Out Sexual Discrimination in Science
Posted on Jul 14, 2008
Debates about gender equality in the sciences are nothing new, but now the stakes may be higher for universities with science funding from the federal government to prove that sexual discrimination isn’t present in their departments. Title IX isn’t just for sports anymore.
The New York Times:
The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.
In this debate, neither side doubts that women can excel in all fields of science. In fact, their growing presence in former male bastions of science is a chief argument against the need for federal intervention.
Despite supposed obstacles like “unconscious bias” and a shortage of role models and mentors, women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.‘s. They earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences. They remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering. Even though their annual share of doctorates in physics has tripled in recent decades, it’s less than 20 percent. Only 10 percent of physics faculty members are women, a ratio that helped prompt an investigation in 2005 by the American Institute of Physics into the possibility of bias.