Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Math


A great article in yesterday's New York Times discussed the persistence of gender bias among science faculty at American research universities. In a study conducted by professors at Yale University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, members of the science faculty were asked to review a resume and rate the applicant's potential.

Some resumes were for John, and some were for Jennifer. You will be shocked, shocked to learn that John was deemed more competent than Jennifer, despite their identical resumes. And the fact that both applicants were entirely fictional.

Interestingly, the study authors credit this to subconscious, rather than overt bias.
Past studies indicate that peoples behavior is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent but simultaneously emphasize their warmth and likeability compared with men. Despite significant decreases in overt sexism over the last few decades (particularly among highly educated people), these subtle gender biases are often still held by even the most egalitarian individuals, and are exhibited by both men and women. 
Yeah, this is kind of a bummer. Especially since the subconscious belief that women are less good at math and science is self-reinforcing - girls who believe that boys are better, do worse. On the flip side, a 2007 study from Stanford demonstrates that girls who believe that mastery of math and science are learnable, rather than defined by innate ability, close the achievement gap. So tell your daughter science comes to those who work hard. And tell Barbie to shove it.


Today's $5 goes to the National Academy of Sciences which support math and science for all of us.
 

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