By now, we’ve all heard about the low numbers of American women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Some argue it’s a pipeline issue – that if we can interest more young girls in STEM subjects, the issue will resolve itself over time. But that’s not convincing. After all, the percentage of women in computer science has actually decreased since 1991.
Another theory is that women are choosing to forgo careers in STEM to attain better work-family balance—rather than being pushed out by bias. But evidence for that is also thin. Several new studies add to the growing body of evidence that documents the role of gender bias in driving women out of science careers. A 2012 randomized, double-blind study gave science faculty at research-intensive universities the application materials of a fictitious student randomly assigned a male or female name, and found that both male and female faculty rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the woman with identical application materials. A 2014 study found that both men and women were twice as likely to hire a man for a job that required math.
My own new research, co-authored with Kathrine W. Phillips and Erika V. Hall, also indicates that bias, not pipeline issues or personal choices, pushes women out of science – and that bias plays out differently depending on a woman’s race or ethnicity.