Study: Women in science see bias handicap

Dec. 13, 2012 at 5:17 PM
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EVANSTON, Ill., Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Bias against women in U.S. research universities in ingrained in the workforce, with a gender-based allocation of resources, a study found.

A Northwestern University study of the publication records of more than 4,200 professors in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics confirms that female faculty do publish fewer papers than male faculty but not for lack of talent or effort.

Especially in fields that require more resources, women publish less, suggesting academic departments historically have not invested resources equally in female faculty from the start of their careers, with greater resources going to male faculty, the study found.

"If a woman starts her career at a lower point, it is impossible to catch up," study co-leader Luis Amaral said in a Northwestern release Thursday. "Women in academia are perceived as less productive, but this may be explained to a great extent by the fact that women are given fewer resources to succeed."

The results may also represent what is happening to all underrepresented groups in science and engineering, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, and possibly in workplaces outside academia such as business, politics and the legal profession, the researchers said.

"We are losing the potential of women -- in science and engineering and many other fields – because of this biased difference," co-researcher Teresa K. Woodruff said. "I expect it would cost very little to bridge the gap and take bias out of the system. Our goal is to understand the productivity gap so we can intervene, change the culture and create new policy."

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