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Do Now

What do you have to say about the reasons and realities of sexism in science? What are the barriers, if any, to women in STEM careers?


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although women make up around 50% of the workforce, they only comprise 26% of the employees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. There is a significant gender gap between men and women in the sciences; research conducted in the UK between 1997 and 2010 revealed that women, on average, received 43 percent less funding in scientific grants than men. A study conducted in 2008 showed that the median salary for a female engineer was $24,000 less than the median salary of their male counterpart. These differences extend beyond mere wage discrimination.

When young girls look at careers in STEM fields and see a dearth of female role models compared to men in these jobs, girls may feel that a science career is simply not for them. In science, there may exist a “stereotype threat,” which states that when we are aware of a bias we are more likely to conform to it. Another possible barrier is the exclusivity within STEM industries themselves; women are underrepresented at conferences, start-up companies, and scientific advisory boards. However there are some studies that show boys seemingly falling behind their female counterparts recently, and that women are currently receiving more college degrees than men. Certain solutions to reduce the gender gap in the sciences–such as the imposition of quotas and special funding programs for women–are criticized for promoting reverse sexism.

What do you have to say about the reasons and realities of sexism in science? What are the barriers, if any, to women in STEM careers?


CBS video Women, Minorities Underrepresented in STEM Fields
U.S. News & World Report chief content officer Brian Kelly and Weill Cornell Medical College dean Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher discuss the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowSexism

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

Nature interactive Science’s Gender Gap
View a visual and interactive graphic of the gender breakdown in science and engineering, along with financial statistics for women and men employed in those fields.

Indiana University interactives Global Gender Disparities in Science
View maps and interactives that show the relationship between gender and the publishing of, and collaboration on, research papers and articles.

KQED Do Now Science is a monthly activity in collaboration with California Academy of Sciences. The Science Do Now is posted every second Tuesday of the month.

This post was contributed by youth from the Spotlight team within The California Academy of Sciences’ Careers in Science Intern Program. CiS is a multi-year, year-round work-based youth development program for young people from groups typically under-represented in the sciences.

Sexism in Science? 8 March,2017California Academy of Sciences

  • FresnoRaisin97

    When I observe this problem, it’s hard for me to really think of any particular reason that would describe the cause of that $24,000 difference. To start, one must look at history and realize that this is a pattern that old, science-oriented men have established. There’s definitely a little traditional bias. At this point, it has become clear that America is not always good at operating outside the bounds of traditional thinking. As time goes on, and as more open-minded, youthful people come into positions of greater authority, that bias will slowly disappear until the numbers are pretty even. That’s my guess, but what do I know? That’s for the grown-ups to decide. For now I don’t think it’s too much of a problem (this, of course, sounds stupid coming from a male… I know, I know, I’m probably biased too, but nobody’s perfect). We will have to look to the future where opportunity awaits. I know it’s probably harder than I’m describing it to be and probably more frustrating to read if you’re female. You know, it would actually be interesting to see how people who don’t identify as male or female are affected by these biases. I know that recently gender identification has been an area of attention for my generation and others. Soon there will have to be some comparison between male, female and non gender conforming. Will those people be discriminated against too? Will the whole “$24,000 less” cycle start all over again? That was just a little tangential thought, but it’s something to think about, especially with the way the political climate is shifting. To drift back to the main topic, I think time is the answer. Get some fresh blood in the executive chair and then we will see some changes. On a grammar related note, “a female engineer” is singular, not plural, therefore “her” is used instead of “their”… Grammar: without it, we are but sailors with no map. For all of you who read until the end of this, I applaud your efforts and thank you for your persistence. It’s times like 10:59 at night when I really question my username choice. I can think of few things less exciting than a dried-up grape. This is one of the great mysteries in life and some day I hope to solve it.

  • Celeste McBride

    When I think about STEM versus other fields, I think about the resources required to learn and go into STEM. That means that students cannot learn STEM on their own, they are forces to put themselves out there to institutions where they can learn it. This creates access problems with women and minority groups who may not be as confident or have the resources to do that.

  • RobinHood82

    Women and men should receive equal pay for doing the same job. There should also be more representation of women in STEM in order to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers.

  • Nathan Cao

    I believe that in order for there to be more women in STEM, there needs to be more incentives for them. For example, take the wages. If women aren’t making the same as men, then there is no plausible reason for them to be in these fields of work. If women and men had the same pay, there would be more of a reason for women to work in these fields.

  • Alberto Garcia

    I agree that if women received equal pay as men for doing the same job, then more women would be motivated to pursue STEM careers.

  • Pingback: Sexism in Science? | Lauren's AP Bio Blog()


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