Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gender discrimination a reason why females choose careers outside the hard sciences, study finds

Date:
October 23, 2012
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
Both male and female scientists view gender discrimination as a major reason women choose to pursue careers in biology rather than physics, according to new research.

Both male and female scientists view gender discrimination as a major reason women choose to pursue careers in biology rather than physics, according to new research from Rice University.

Related Articles


"Gender Segregation in Elite Academic Science," which appears in the October issue of Gender and Society, reveals differences in the way male and female scientists view disparities in the proportion of women in some science disciplines. The study surveyed 2,500 biologists and physicists at elite institutions of higher education in the United States. Researchers also interviewed a smaller scientific sample of 150 scientists one on one about the reasons they believe there are gender differences in scientific disciplines.

"The distribution of women and men across various science-related occupations has long drawn both popular and scholarly attention," said lead study author and principal investigator Elaine Howard Ecklund, an associate professor of sociology. "In our research, we're interested in how scientists explain the different proportions of men and women in biology and physics.

"We know from various pieces of research that people's perceptions of the way things are really influence how they act with other people," she said. "When mentoring students, they might pass these views along. This makes their opinions extremely important, as they can have a significant impact on future scientists and research."

The study's key finding is that both male and female scientists view gender discrimination as a factor in women's decision not to choose a science career at all or to choose biology over physics. However, the two sexes still have differences in opinion about when discrimination occurs.

"During interviews, men almost never mentioned present-day discrimination, believing that any discrimination in physical science classes likely took place early in the educational history (primary school), which they believe explains women's predisposition to biological sciences," Ecklund said. "However, female scientists believe that discrimination is still occurring in present-day universities and departments."

Regardless of gender or discipline, approximately half of all the scientists interviewed thought that at some point in women's educational lives, they are discouraged from pursing a career in physics.

Other reasons scientists gave to explain the different numbers of women that pursue biology when compared with physics include mentorship of students in the fields of biology and physics and "inherent differences between men and women."

One female scientist said, "I think women … want to have more of a sense that what they are doing is helping somebody. Maybe there are more women in … biology (because) you can be like, 'Oh, I am going to go cure cancer.'"

Whereas women often explained sex differences between the disciplines using reasons of emotional affinity, men stressed neurological differences as being responsible for personal choices. One male scientist suggested that there are "some brain differences between men and women that explain (the gender differences between the disciplines)."

Ecklund said, "It's extremely important to understand how scientists at the kind of top research universities we studied feel about this topic, as they train the next generation of researchers and leaders in the sciences and will pass on their ideas to these young scholars."

Ecklund authored the article with co-principal investigator Anne Lincoln of Southern Methodist University and former Rice University undergraduate Cassandra Tansey. The paper is part of Ecklund's larger study with Lincoln titled "Perceptions of Women in Academic Science," which examines how male and female biologists and physicists in the U.S. differ in regard to important influences in their science career.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. The original article was written by Amy Hodges. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. H. Ecklund, A. E. Lincoln, C. Tansey. Gender Segregation in Elite Academic Science. Gender & Society, 2012; 26 (5): 693 DOI: 10.1177/0891243212451904

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Gender discrimination a reason why females choose careers outside the hard sciences, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023101033.htm>.
Rice University. (2012, October 23). Gender discrimination a reason why females choose careers outside the hard sciences, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023101033.htm
Rice University. "Gender discrimination a reason why females choose careers outside the hard sciences, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023101033.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins