Gender Discrimination in the Academia

Hat-tip to Jessica: a researcher at the University of East Anglia has made the shocking discovery that there is gender discrimination in the academia.

[Link] Sara Connolly, of UEA’s school of economics, has undertaken research that reveals for the first time what proportion of the pay disparity is due to women being younger, more junior or employed in different types of institution or subject areas. Her preliminary results suggest that almost a quarter (23%) of the pay gap is “unexplained” and may be due to discrimination against women.


Dr Connolly also found:
· an average pay gap between men and women academics working in science, engineering and technology of £1,000, rising to more than £4,000 for professors
· women only represent 29% of permanent academic staff in the sciences (despite women being employed in increasing numbers in universities and gender equality existing among science students)
· the gender gap widens with seniority – with women accounting for just 16% of professors in the sciences.

The mere surprise of seeing these figures caused my brain to hallucinate about having seen countless studies demonstrating conclusively that the academia has serious discrimination against women.

What I’d really like to see is a study that looks at the exact breakdown of how sexism works. The last link says,

Women in computer science must overcome two sets of obstacles to success, Roberts said. Some are impediments in most scientific and technical fields:

  • Overt sexism, unwanted attention and sexual harassment create hostile working conditions.
  • A lack of role models for women in technical fields is discouraging. “When faculty members are looking for the next person to win a Turing Award, which is computer science’s Nobel Prize, they tend to look for people like the last ones who won such awards. This usually involves looking in the mirror,” Roberts said.
  • The number of women in technical fields is not large enough to establish a resilient, supportive peer community.
  • Failures in the mentoring process contribute to women’s lack of interest. Men advance academically because the faculty push them to do research and excel.
  • Expectations are different for male and female students. “Many women find that they get pats on the head for merely doing well in courses,” he said. As a result, they are not adequately prepared to engage challenges at higher stages of the academic pipeline.

There’s a very well-documented trend of the proportion of women’s decreasing as seniority increases. I think there needs to be a study that looks at each of the main contributing factors and their levels of importance. The academia is getting less sexist, so women who get their Ph.D.s later suffer from less discrimination. There’re attrition due to direct sexism, attrition due to child-bearing, lack of progress due to lack of rolemodels… I once read a very detailed internal study at Stanford, which I unfortunately can’t find, and which documents the exact way inequality works, but for some reason can’t say which forms of inequality are the most critical.

3 Responses to Gender Discrimination in the Academia

  1. SLC says:

    There are at least 3 women (probably more) who should have shared Nobel Prizes who were bypassed. These were Lise Meitner, who should have shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Otto Hahn, Chien-Shiung Wu who should have shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Lee and Yang and Rosalind Franklin, who should have shared the Nobel prize in Chemistry with Watson, Wilkins and Crick.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Well, now there’s also Lisa Randall, who was for several years the most cited physicist. Discrimination won’t prevent A-list scientists from getting jobs; the problem is that women have to be as brilliant as Randall is to get somewhere, whereas men only have to be as smart as your average Harvard physics professor.

  3. SLC says:

    I am unfamiler with Ms. Randall and know nothing about her activities. However, I think that some caution should be given to judging the worth of an individuals’ contributions by the number of entries in the Citation Index. For instance, in the 1960s’ there was a paper authored by a physicist named Stephen Adler, introducing the theory of current algebras. That paper was probably cited more times then papers by most Nobel Prize winners, including the paper on SU3 by Gellmann and Ne’eman. Adler, however, to my knowledge, hasn’t done anything else of note.

    Speaking of Yuvel Ne’eman, here is a case of someone denied a Nobel Prize because of his country of origin and his political views. He should have shared the prize with his co-author, Murray Gellmann.

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