The 2010 report entitled, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), finds that women continue to experience more overt discrimination, as well as the more unconscious bias, in science and engineering. Research by Dr. Madeline Heilman at New York University shows that women in so-called masculine jobs or nontraditional fields, which includes science and engineering, often find themselves in a double bind.
First, women in these “masculine” jobs are often judged to be less competent than their male peers, unless the women are clearly successful in their work. But when a woman is clearly competent in a “male” job or position, she is often judged to be less likable. Because both likability and competence are needed for success in the workplace, women in STEM fields can find themselves in a double bind. Therefore, the implications of these findings are enormous. Being seen as either less competent or less likable can affect relationships with peers, evaluations, and recommendations for promotion and salary increases.
Recommendations to address and eliminate this kind of bias include raising awareness about bias against women in the STEM fields is one step we can take to counteract it. When men and women in science and engineering fields are aware that bias exists in these areas, they can work to interrupt the unconscious thought processes that lead to bias. For women in particular, knowing that gender bias exists in science and engineering fields can help them understand that if they encounter social disapproval, it is likely not personal. In addition, employers/managers should ensure that there are objective measures for performance and clear criteria for success so that evaluation is less likely to be subject to ambiguous reasoning and biased beliefs.
This is the last in a series of blog posts describing the findings of the amazing AAUW report, Why So Few? The answer to this question is all around us. The research described over the last several years provides evidence that social and environmental factors at work, at home, and at school act as barriers to girls’ and women’s performance and participation in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The report also provides concrete recommendations for what each of us can do in our roles as parents, educators, employers, decision-makers, and leaders to effect positive change and more fully open opportunities for girls and women in science and engineering fields. Like all AAUW research reports, this one will be influential only if we all help spread the word. Please share these findings with parents, teachers, school administrators, PTAs, after-school groups, college administrators and faculty, employers, and others.
This is the last in a long series of posts from the Why So Few? report. Just a final reminder that the report can be downloaded for FREE from AAUW website.
Note: much of this text is from the AAUW ppt describing highlights of the Why So Few? report.