Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fellow blogger - The Myth of the ‘Myth of Women in Science’

If you skimmed through some articles about women in science recently, you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘problem solved’. A recent study by Cecil and Williams, published in no less august a publication than PNAS, claimed women actually had a 2:1 advantage over men when it came to hiring at tenure track level. Isn’t that fantastic! Hence CNN ran a story claiming it was now ‘the myth of women in science’, implying that those tedious whinging women could now shout up (other outlets ran similar write-ups).
However. Yes, there’s bound to be a however. This claim, which many women would be hard pressed to believe from personal experience, was sure to be scrutinised. If you want an analysis of why the study is not as robust as its abstract (and the CNN article) suggests, take a look at this. This deconstruction of the study highlights a number of shortcomings , not least the fact that respondents being asked if they’d hire someone knew full well the CVs they were sent were not genuine. Why not show how impressively unbiased you are by choosing the minority candidate when absolutely nothing hangs on it?
Now the plural of anecdote may not be data, and indeed hiring decisions could in fact be completely independent of the microinequities people feel justified in making day by day (see Jenny Martin’s recent blogpost if you doubt such things are still ongoing) but nothing I have seen suggests we have yet reached a point when we can relax and think equality has been reached in science. Study after study suggests that women leave the profession at a faster rate than men and that, whatever percentage of women start out at undergraduate level the percentage falls at each successive stage, although the numbers vary between disciplines.

Read more here.

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