Academic Sexism

This is my latest post for STEM Women, which covers the recent Op-Ed in the New York Times claiming that there is no sexism in academia. There’s been a really great response from scientists speaking out against this article, particularly on social media. The issue is to really get the message out to the rest of the public that gender inequality in science is important and ongoing.

A few days a go, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by two psychology professors who argue that “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist.” On our blog, we look at the various problems with this article which is based on a review study conducted by the authors. The biggest issue is that the way they measure gender inequality does not match the data they have available. The researchers fail to account for institutional factors that impact on women’s under-representation in STEM.

STEM workers, like all people, are impacted by socio-economic issues. The researchers have failed to engage with evidence of how parents, teachers, the media and other social influences discourage girls from pursuing STEM careers. Studies show that girls and boys perform equally well in STEM-related tests throughout school, but negative stereotypes, a lack of role models, and discrimination make it harder for women to succeed.

Research shows, for example, that male researchers are less likely to take women on as summer interns and students, and that hiring committees prefer male candidates even when women have the same qualifications and years of experience.

The researchers have also failed to account for issues of race, sexuality, disability and other forms of exclusion that further disadvantage minority women. 

We show why an Op-Ed such as this, published in a widely-read newspaper such as the New York Times, is damaging to diversity in science,. It gives the impression to the lay public that inequality is not a problem, and therefore undermines the struggle for progress.

Head over to our blog to read more about the scientific evidence we’ve used to critique this study, and the various other problems with their methodology:

3 thoughts on “Academic Sexism

  1. What are we doing about it? Until all are equal it’s a simple answer – not enough. As a woman in this field I can attest first hand that these problems exist and are ongoing. I have watched over the years as a male dominated field has made very few and IMOHO paltry attempts at addressing this issue only to fall way short if not miss the mark completely. Until we can stop seeing / basing merit based on ones sex I fear we won’t get very far despite valiant efforts from all involved – which fills me with a deep sadness.


  2. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Anne Boleyn​. You’ve put it perfectly, especially this:”Until all are equal not enough.” I’m hoping that all STEM fields start to converge on this issue and we leave behind the idea of blaming individual women for their “choices” and instead see that gender inequality is something that requires a collective approach.


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