University of Illinois and Princeton University study: Stereotypes that women are not as brilliant as men result in gender inequity in academia

15 Jan

Many girls and women who have the math and science aptitude for a science career don’t enter scientific fields. Cheryl B. Schrader wrote in the St Louis Post-Dispatch article, STEM education: Where the girls are not:

Compounding this issue, the gender gap in these fields is widening…
While the majority of U.S. college students today are female, they remain a minority in many science and engineering fields. If universities are to meet the future demands of our economy, we can’t leave half of the college-bound population on the sidelines.
How can we change that? The STEMconnector report offers some hints.
Female high school students who are interested in these fields often gravitate toward biology, chemistry, marine biology and science — areas often associated with a desire to make the world a better place. Women tend to be drawn to these service-oriented professions….http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/stem-education-where-the-girls-are-not/article_ae33c7b7-6a7b-5011-8d2a-138bc1538357.html

See, STEM Connector http://store.stemconnector.org/Where-Are-the-STEM-Students_p_9.html

Stephanie Castillo reported in the Medical Daily article, Gender Inequality In Academia Stems From Assumption Women Aren’t As Brilliant As Men:

A new study published in the journal Science continues to support the idea gender inequality exists in academia.

According to researchers from the University of Illinois and Princeton University, women are underrepresented in academic fields, such as the sciences, the humanities, social sciences, and math, because of stereotypes. Namely, the idea is that women’s intellectual abilities are inferior to those of men. Cue the eye rolling.

The study surveyed more than 1,800 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members across 30 academic disciplines, asking them the qualities required for success in their fields. When it came to the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), as well as the humanities and social sciences, women were underrepresented because of the premium practitioners put on brilliance.

“We’re not saying brilliance — or valuing brilliance — is a bad thing. And we’re not saying women are not brilliant or that being brilliant isn’t helpful to one’s academic career. Our data don’t address that,” Andrei Cimpian, lead study author and psychology professor at Illinois, explained in a press release. “What they suggest is that conveying to your students a belief that brilliance is required for success may have a differential effect on males and females that are looking to pursue careers in your field.”

Cimpian’s explanation held up after he and his team tested for three additional hypotheses regarding female underrepresentation: one, women avoid working long hours; two, it’s harder for women to break into these highly selective fields; and three, men simply outnumber women “in fields that require analytical, systematical reasoning.” Neither of these was able to predict women’s representation in academia as well as brilliance.

But, just because Cimpian’s study didn’t address the idea “women aren’t brilliant” or “being brilliant isn’t helpful” doesn’t mean it’s not a thing. Because if it were true no one is saying or making these assumptions, there would be more women in academia. Cimpian himself said there’s no convincing evidence men and women differ intellectually in ways that would be relevant to their success working in science — it’s mainly the perceived or presumed differences between women and men.

The idea women are “inferior” to men started somewhere, so where should we be looking in order to come up with the solution? One study published in the journal Life Science Education suggested the classroom…http://www.medicaldaily.com/gender-inequality-academia-stems-assumption-women-arent-brilliant-men-317984

Citation:

Science 16 January 2015:
Vol. 347 no. 6219 pp. 262-265
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261375

  • Report

Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines

  1. Sarah-Jane Leslie1,*,,
  2. Andrei Cimpian2,*,,
  3. Meredith Meyer3,
  4. Edward Freeland4

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Philosophy, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Otterbein University, Westerville, OH 43081, USA.
  4. 4Survey Research Center, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
  1. *These authors contributed equally to the work.

The gender imbalance in STEM subjects dominates current debates about women’s underrepresentation in academia. However, women are well represented at the Ph.D. level in some sciences and poorly represented in some humanities (e.g., in 2011, 54% of U.S. Ph.D.’s in molecular biology were women versus only 31% in philosophy). We hypothesize that, across the academic spectrum, women are underrepresented in fields whose practitioners believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for success, because women are stereotyped as not possessing such talent. This hypothesis extends to African Americans’ underrepresentation as well, as this group is subject to similar stereotypes. Results from a nationwide survey of academics support our hypothesis (termed the field-specific ability beliefs hypothesis) over three competing hypotheses.

  • Received for publication 17 September 2014.
  • Accepted for publication 25 November 2014.

Related Web Sites

Read the Full Text

The editors suggest the following Related Resources on Science sites

In Science Magazine

  • Perspective Social Science Gender inequality in science
    • Andrew M. Penner

Science 16 January 2015: 234-235.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6219/262.short

Here is the press release from the University of Illinois:

Public Release: 15-Jan-2015 Study supports new explanation of gender gaps in academia

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It isn’t that women don’t want to work long hours or can’t compete in highly selective fields, and it isn’t that they are less analytical than men, researchers report in a study of gender gaps in academia. It appears instead that women are underrepresented in academic fields whose practitioners put a lot of emphasis on the importance of being brilliant – a quality many people assume women lack.

The new findings are reported in the journal Science.

The research, led by University of Illinois psychology professor Andrei Cimpian and Princeton University philosophy professor Sarah-Jane Leslie , focused on a broad swath of academic disciplines, including those in the sciences, the humanities, social sciences and math.

The researchers focused on the culture of different fields, reasoning that stereotypes of women’s inferior intellectual abilities might help explain why women are underrepresented in fields – such as physics or philosophy – that idolize geniuses.

The team surveyed more than 1,800 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members in 30 academic disciplines and, among other things, asked them what qualities were required for success in their fields. Across the board, in the sciences, technology, engineering and math (the so-called STEM fields), as well as in the humanities and social sciences, women were found to be underrepresented in those disciplines whose practitioners put a premium on brilliance.

“We’re not saying brilliance – or valuing brilliance – is a bad thing,” Cimpian said. “And we’re not saying women are not brilliant or that being brilliant isn’t helpful to one’s academic career. Our data don’t address that. What they suggest is that conveying to your students a belief that brilliance is required for success may have a differential effect on males and females that are looking to pursue careers in your field.”

The team also tested three other hypotheses that might help explain women’s underrepresentation in some fields: one, that women avoid careers that require them to work long hours; two, that women are less able than men to get into highly selective fields; and three, that women are outnumbered by men in fields that require analytical, systematical reasoning.

“We found that none of these three alternative hypotheses was able to predict women’s representation across the academic spectrum,” Leslie said. “A strong emphasis on brilliance among practitioners of particular fields was the best predictor of women’s underrepresentation in those fields.”

The researchers are still investigating whether women are actively avoiding fields that focus on cultivating brilliant individuals, or if practitioners in those fields are discriminating against women based on their beliefs about women’s aptitudes. A combination of the two is certainly plausible, Cimpian said.

“There is no convincing evidence in the literature that men and women differ intellectually in ways that would be relevant to their success across the entire range of fields we surveyed,” Cimpian said. “So it is most likely that female underrepresentation is not the result of actual differences in intellectual ability – but rather the result of perceived or presumed differences between women and men.”

###

Editor’s notes:

To reach Andrei Cimpian, call 217-333-0852; email acimpian@illinois.edu.

The paper, “Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines” is available to members of the media from scipak@aaas.org.

How classes are taught and how girls and woman are encouraged makes a huge difference in the fields women choose for their education and work.

Phoebe Parke of CNN wrote in the article, Ask the experts: How do we get girls into STEM?

  1. “The toys and games that young girls play with mold their educational and career interests; they create dreams of future careers.” says Andrea Guendelman, co-founder of Developher

  2. “Introduce girls early to role models of other women In STEM” suggests Regina Agyare, founder of Soronko Solutions….

  3. “It’s important to engage girls in STEM at an early age and keep them interested.” adds Patty L. Fagin, PhD, Head of School at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

  4. “There’s no magic recipe for getting girls into STEM, but we know early and positive exposure makes an impact.” Karen Horting, CEO and Executive Director at the Society of Women Engineers told CNN….

  5. “Start them young.” is Michelle Sun, Founder and CEO of First Code Academy‘s advice….

  6. “I believe one on one mentoring programs with accomplished female STEM professionals will help bring girls in to the STEM field.” says Adeola Shasanya who recently co-founded Afro-Tech Girls and works at the Lagos State Electricity Board as an Electrical Engineering and Renewables Consultant….

  7. Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Lift London, Microsoft Studios believes confidence is key; “Insatiable curiosity and the self confidence to make change in the world — two qualities that are key to instil in the female innovators of the future….

  8. “Women are the future of technology and today’s technology is fun and cool.” says Weili Dai, President and Co-founder of Marvell Technology Group

  9. “Time and again, I hear from women who chose their STEM career because they were inspired by a successful woman who proved it could be done.” adds Suw Charman-Anderson, Founder of Ada Lovelace Day….

  10. “To get more girls in STEM let’s go for collective action…” says Julie Kantor, Chief Partnership Officer at Million Women Mentors

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/27/world/europe/how-to-get-girls/

It is going to take a variety of strategies which include mentoring, exposure to what is now considered nontraditional fields and encouragement of girls and women not only entering nontraditional fields, but staying the course.

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls

https://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia

https://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers

https://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?

https://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

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