IFLScience blog, by David Miller
In 2012, an experiment on gender bias
shook the scientific community by showing that science faculty favor
male college graduates over equally qualified women applying for lab
manager positions. Though the study was rigorous, many didn’t believe it.
“This report is JUNK science. There is no data here,” said one online commenter. Others justified the bias saying, "In every competitive situation, with a few exceptions, the women I worked with were NOT competent.”
Now, a study published
in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provides crucial
clues about why some people were critical of the original finding – and
other studies that have followed. The new study’s authors reasoned that
men especially might devalue the evidence because it threatens the
legitimacy of their status in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) fields. Men might also be critical because of prior beliefs that gender bias is not a problem in STEM.
To test these ideas, the researchers recruited 205 people from the
general public and 205 Montana State University tenure-track faculty.
These participants read and then evaluated the abstract of the
now-famous 2012 study also published in PNAS.
Men rated the research quality of the abstract less favorably than did
women in both samples. This gender gap was especially large for STEM
faculty, potentially suggesting that evidence of bias might threaten men
in STEM seeking to retain their status.
Read more here.