Sunday, March 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UCD study shows gender bias persists in science

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall speaks in April 2008 at the Sacramento Zoo, promoting her Roots & Shoots program through the Jane Goodall Institute. Gender bias persists in the sciences, a UC Davis researcher has found, even in fields like primatology where Goodall and Dian Fossey have inspired many senior women with long and distinguished careers. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise file photo

By
From page A1 | November 23, 2012 |

Discrimination against women in science continues to be a problem, even in fields dominated by female researchers, suggests a new study from UC Davis, which found a startling gender disparity in who is chosen to speak at scientific conferences.

Lead author Lynne Isbell, a professor of anthropology at UC Davis, initiated the study after being struck by the scarcity of female speakers at the annual meeting in April of the American Association of Physical Anthropology.

“I started wondering if this was a fluke, or something we hadn’t noticed before,” Isbell said.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

To answer the question, Isbell and two UCD colleagues — fellow anthropology professor Alexander Harcourt and Truman Young, a professor of plant sciences — went through programs from 21 annual meetings of the association, focusing on sessions on Isbell’s own field, primatology.

They tallied the genders of speakers at symposia, those giving shorter oral presentations and those presenting posters. (Symposium talks are generally seen as being more prestigious than short oral presentations, with posters — often presented by junior researchers and graduate students — being seen as the least prestigious.)

The team found that symposia organized by men had half the number of female speakers, 29 percent, as those organized by women, 64 percent, or by men and women, 58 percent. Women were far more likely to make poster presentations than give talks, while men presented more talks than posters.

It’s especially surprising, Isbell said, because primatology — the study of lemurs, monkeys and apes — is dominated by women, and there are many senior women, following pioneers like Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, with long and distinguished careers.

“If it can happen in primatology, what’s happening in other fields with fewer women?” Isbell asked.

Other recent studies have found persistent gender gaps in science. For example, Yale researchers recently asked professors to rate résumés of graduate students applying for a job as lab manager. Both men and women consistently rated “male” candidates more highly, even when the résumés were identical.

“It’s a cultural phenomenon we have, to see men as more ‘competent’ and women as more ‘likeable,’ ” Isbell said. “I doubt that people know that they are doing this.”

While overt gender or racial discrimination is becoming less common, Kim Shauman, an associate professor of sociology at UCD who studies gender inequality in education and employment, said that men and women are equally likely to display implicit bias.

“I think it’s very interesting,” Shauman said of Isbell’s study. “We know that social networks are very important for access to career opportunities, and these social networks are segregated by gender, ethnicity and class.”

Isbell and Shauman both said the first step to tackling implicit biases is to recognize that they exist. For scientists especially, data-driven studies like Isbell’s help promote awareness.

“The good news is that when people become aware of these biases they can take steps to counteract them,” Shauman said.

For example, Isbell suggested that conference organizers can encourage both women and men to apply to give symposium talks. If posters are a style of communication that attracts more women, perhaps the scientific community should take steps to raise posters’ status, such as by requiring senior researchers to present them, she said.

Shauman is the interim faculty director for UCD’s program ADVANCE, a National Science Foundation-funded effort to boost opportunities for women, especially Latinas, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields. The project’s principal investigator is UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi, who is a professor in the departments of electrical engineering, and women and gender studies.

— UC Davis News Service

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Sheriff: Mother ‘sole person responsible’ for infant’s death

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Rifle Team has a blast with competitive shooting

    By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Child abduction case in jury’s hands

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

     
    Pipeline project will soften water in 2016

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Pig out at Farmers Market’s Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

     
    Christie to Republicans: No rush to pick 2016 nominee

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Colon prep can be hard to swallow

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

     
    Scouts help fill STEAC’s pantry

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Weekend storm drops snow, rain, hail in California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Still no parole in toddler case

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    City offers wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Parole denied in 1987 killing spree

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explore Asia at Arboretum storytime

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    MU Games closing in late March

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Assault awareness campaign kicks off

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    UCD student with meningococcal disease is recovering

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Young patients bond with special stuffies

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Diversity theater group continues creativity workshops

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Radio talk show moves to Mondays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    UCD student panel to cover anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Yolo Food Bank hosts thank-you breakfast on Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Forum

    Milt Priggee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    Rowing: PE as well as life skills

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Police complaint procedures drafted

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Clarifying energy update letter

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Weekly claw pickup necessary

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Mars or ISIS? Similar outcome

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    City may get charged up over energy choices

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B5

     
    Design innovation centers for the 21st century

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    A new perspective on life

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

     
    Distant water crisis has lessons for Davis

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

    Call for study to settle if anesthesia poses risk to babies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Aggie men get a bounce-back win at Cal Poly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    The mystery continues: lowly Gauchos upset UCD women

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils get a soccer win despite finishing woes

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Winning close games is the key for DHS softballers

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Razo throws well as Aggies get a baseball win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Defending champion Blue Devils have diamond holes to fill

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Republic FC falls to storied New York Cosmos

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B10

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Yolo Federal Credit Union honored for supporting business education

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Online store will celebrate, mock People’s Republic of Davis

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, March 1, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8