Is Science really sexist?

Royal Society Open Science published their new paper today in which it is stated that University of Canterbury UC researches conducted a research which resulted in proving science to be gender biased. They studied years of research from a total number of 28 different scientific societies in 4 countries; they covered 5 covered 5 science disciplines and stated that science was sexist.

Their research paper was called “Gender and societies: a grassroots approach to women in science” And Master’s student Rose Chisnall, UC Associate Professor Alex James and Professor Michael Plank stated in it that women did not get enough representation in science.

Alex James, UC Biomathematics expert Associate Professor said that their research used data of almost 20 years on more than 5,000 individuals, covering 28 societies in 4 countries—the U.K, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S.—and 5 scientific disciplines.

She added that they showed that as a role’s status increased so did under-representation of women, even when eligible women were taken into account. They also showed how, in award selection committees some very common practices would be exploiting the problem and gave some simple recommendations for increasing diversity.

This research is the first one conducted at such a grassroot level and that too across various countries and disciplines.

Professor Michael Plank of UC Mathematics and Statistics department said that their results showed that gender gap widened as we moved up academic hierarchy. Women were just as much as men to be given low status awards, but not likely to be given more prestigious awards. The fact that winners were decided by their predecessors, it maintained gender bias. They concluded that when the stakes were low, efforts for tackling sexism had been partly successful, but otherwise, sexism was at peak. They had wanted to hold the study as they had felt that scientific societies had a big opportunity for helping in reducing sexism. Some initiatives have supported in student prizes etc., but men are still getting most of the prestigious awards.

The findings of paper include:

  • In a lot scientific disciplines, very less number of women receive prestigious awards in comparison with the number of senior women in that field.
  • Underrepresentation of women in leadership roles happens in scientific societies in comparison with the number of senior women in that field.
  • Underrepresentation of women increases with the increase in the status of the award.
  • The diversity of award winners can be improved by the societies via improvement of selection panels. This will eradicate nomination bias, and increase transparency of processes.