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Hidden gender bias still influences physics field

6 Aug 2014, 14:34 UTC
Hidden gender bias still influences physics field
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This article appeared in Fermilab Today on Aug. 6, 2014.
Yale University astrophysicist Meg Urry spoke about gender bias in science at the July 30 Fermilab Colloquium. Photo: Lauren Biron
Both men and women need to improve how they evaluate women in the sciences to help eliminate bias, says Meg Urry, who spoke at last week’s Fermilab Colloquium. People of either gender fall victim to unconscious prejudices that affect who succeeds, particularly in physics.
“Less than 20 percent of the Ph.D.s in physics go to women,” Urry noted, a figure that has barely crept up even while fields such as medicine have approached parity.
Urry, a professor at Yale University and president of the American Astronomical Society, unleashed a torrent of studies demonstrating bias during her talk, “Women in Physics: Why So Few? And How to Move Toward Normal.”
In one example, letters of recommendation for men were more likely to include powerful adjectives and contain specifics, while those for women were often shorter, included hints of doubt or made explicit mention of gender.
Another study found that in jobs that were perceived as masculine, both men and women tended to award the position to the man even when the ...

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