Standing Up Against Sexist Science

I was quoted in this article by Rebecca Schuman on Slate. She addresses the sexist logic behind the recent The New York Times  article which claims that “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist.” Schuman notes that the article is based on a study published in a journal for which both of the authors act as editors. Here’s the quote including my critique of the study:

“Had this study been subject to more strenuous peer review (the kind that you are more likely to get when you don’t submit to a journal you founded), Ceci and Williams may have been pressed more on why their conclusions, as the sociologist Zuleyka Zevallos tells me, don’t match their data, which she argues actually “do show inequalities in STEM, but the authors dismiss this.”

Schuman critiques the sexist logic behind the study:

“By insisting that the continuing exodus of women from scientific academia boils down to lifestyle choices, denying that it is the unwelcoming environment of scientific academia that forces those choices, [researchers] Ceci and Williams have simply revealed their own sneering—and, yes, sexist—dismissal of the experiences women have had.”

Read more on Slate:

Here’s my article analysing the poor methodology of the study:

12 thoughts on “Standing Up Against Sexist Science

  1. Hi Matt Schofield The best way forward is not to create separate systems for men and women – we need to fix what we have in place. The academic model was created a long time a go, when the laws prohibited women from participating in science. Our society is different today. Not only do policies prohibit this type of discrimination, we have new challenges to deal with. We have a different type of economy, environmental issues, new diseases and so on. It’s better that we work together by revising the academic system so that it includes all genders, leaving us to focus on maximising the gains from STEM  innovation. Better we fix the world together, don’t you think? 😉


  2. Zuleyka Zevallos Hmm… well, if you insist. The thing is that the academic system as we know it is neither very old nor perfect – new movements like Open Access publication are changing it all the time.

    Having grown up as an academic’s kid and then doing my own PhD, I saw a lot of folks just waiting for dead men’s shoes and doing paint-by-numbers science to keep the ball rolling along and the state grants awarded by the same old committees.Why? Because it validated them to have been ranked by an existing system. My dad built up his own 70 person unit with no state funding at all, bent all the rules out of shape, and launched a lot of great civil engineering careers on the way – many of them awesome women. But he didn’t do that by following the rules. 


  3. I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt Matt Schofield but you’re clearly invested in keeping women in STEM down. This post is about women’s academia experiences in STEM. Open Access is new and there’s no evidence that it is having an impact on gender inequality. It may one day but not now and it’s not actively set up to tackle sexism. You have come back here with an anecdote about your father – a man. I’m writing about women’s collective experiences, drawing on multiple scientific studies done around the world. See the various articles I’ve written on this topic, including the one I linked to at the bottom of my post. Here is another: The problem of inequality in STEM is people’s resistance to seeing sexism as a problem, and people who have trouble understanding and accepting the scientific evidence. You can choose not to be a part of the solution, but you won’t be further arguing your sexist case for a separate academic system for women on my threads.


  4. Ummm what exactly was the point he was trying to make? All I got out of that was how wonderful he thought his father was – just wondering what that has to do with the actual issue – I have to agree with Zuleyka that his only purpose was to draw attention away from the topic and trying to cloud it with useless babble. Not trying to offend him but this is another example of why efforts are so slow to effectively change things in STEM. I really can’t thank Zuleyka enough for all she’s doing! It really makes me feel great to know she’s here tackling this issue and doing it with compassion and grace. Thank you!


  5. Dear Zuleyka and Anne, thank you for your thoughtful and meaningful posts. I teach middle school STEM and am always looking for women scientist to show as examples to my students. I have been concerned about the lack of female representation in everything from politics (yes I have run 2x and lost..that’s ok) to a teacher at my campus who teaches music to elementary children and has a wall of composers none of which are female. I brought it to his attention and he was offended .I am a refere in a women’s sport, yet most of the coaches are men and the referees. Why? I constantly try to pull in new female referees. I coach have trained other females. We must do more. I wish I had the energy and time. I am consumed with trying to excite my male and female students about STEM and living on a Lean paycheck it feels. We do not value the correct thing.

    I wish I had an answer but I tell my eager students…I am counting on you to change our world.


  6. It sounds like you are doing more than your share to try to change the world Lori McGowan​​! It can be discouraging to put a lot of effort into opening up the eyes of colleagues and students, but the little wins are worth it. Pointing out the lack of women in curriculum is vital, as you did with the women conductors. If you haven’t already check out the other page I co-run with two women scientists STEM Women on G+​​. It might help you with your students as we feature individual women scientists and talk about new research on gender in STEM. I’ve got another page that I’ve started up related to my work Science in Australia Gender Equity​. The page will soon start to feature tips on how to address gender equity. The focus is higher education and research institutes (rather than school) but you might find it useful.


  7. Thank you Zuleyka, I feel very alone in my attempts to correct even small inappropriate sexist remarks not that there is such a thing as small/insignificant in my book. I have been told by people to stop trying to fix injustices…sometimes I wonder….because I feel like I am alone and the stress of educating/correcting people makes me ill sometimes. I am a huge believer that small snarky remarks matter because they open the door to bigger injustices. I corrected a lifestyles teacher recently for her remark that when girls are upset they eat chocolate. I was so insulted and hurt for all the females in the room. That thinking obviously leads to the idea that females soothe themselves with candy after a romantic breakup…and worse that we cannot handle stress and use food. She was shocked and hurt by my correction. So be it. As educators we sometimes need to be educated also. But I have to say my corrections are generally not welcomed no matter how softly couched. I get mentally exhausted at trying to undo these injustices. Thanks for all you do and I am glad I am not alone! Lol……Lori

    Sent from my iPad


  8. Also, the today in science newsletter could use your list of female. Scientists. I had a very friendly discussion with him about spotlighting more females….and he said he would try but there seem to be so few in his research. Coincidently today he is featuring Ada Lovelace!!!

    Sent from my iPad


  9. Lori McGowan​ you are not alone! Am sick of being referred to as a woman first and scientist second. Gender slander has gotten out of hand in the classroom as well as the workplace.

    But, remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 🙂

    Also, please tell your troglodyte of a Lifestyles teacher “For shame!” And the fact that she, a woman, said that – disgraceful! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never “soothed myself with candy or food”, nor cried to get my way – I’ve taken my lumps in life as learning experiences and moved on like a normal adult. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with these issues! Zuleyka Zevallos​ is an absolutely awesome woman bringing light to a subject most men and some women would prefer to be left in the dark! I’m glad you are speaking up & speaking out! Lady Anne ^^ö^^ (who has a PhD in Geomorphology and hates chocolate! lololol)


  10. Thanks Anne, as you know you were an important woman composer in your day! (I found that out when I passed on a list of female composers to the music teacher who only had male composers on his wall…ugh. It is great to have support from other scientists. I encourage my students male and female to explore and realize science is for all.

    Yes it stings especially when a female makes remarks that undermine out women. I cringe listening to her remarks, I need to set her straight soon, but I have rubbed a bunch of people the wrong way so it all becomes so draining…..

    Sent from my iPad


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