04/22/2013 09:38 am ET Updated Apr 22, 2013

Women In Science Disadvantaged: Work By Male Scientists Associated With Higher Quality

Working in the sciences is notoriously challenging for women -- men outnumber and out-earn them across the biological, life, physical and social sciences. And now, new research from Ohio State University has found that, not only are scientific articles written by men thought to be higher quality than those written by women, but also that people are more interested in collaborating with male scientists than female ones.

The research team of Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, Carroll J. Glynn and Michael Huge asked 243 communication graduate students to complete a questionnaire on gender role attributes and to evaluate abstracts taken from a 2010 conference. These abstracts, were on gendered "feminine" topics like body image, "male" topics like political journalism, or "neutral" topics like health communication, were presented as being written by either female or male authors. Participants rated each abstract on a 10-point scale for each of the following qualities: "rigorous," "by competent authors," "influential," "important," "innovative," "publishable in a prestigious journal," "high-quality contribution," and "reflective of expertise."

Results showed that participants of both sexes considered work by male authors of a higher quality and more publishable. Interestingly, an article by a male on a "feminine" topic was seen as less scientifically sound -- but people were still more interested in collaborating with men on such topics. However, participants were much more interested in collaborating with women than with men on "masculine" topics.

The findings seem to confirm the bias against women in STEM already seen in grant awards and hiring decisions. Female scientists win fewer research grants, and typically receive lower amounts than men when they do win. When it comes to hiring, both sexes are more likely to prefer a male candidate to a female one. And in a 2012 study, researchers found that people considered female applicants for science jobs less hireable and less competent. Female candidates were also given lower salaries and less mentoring than male candidates.

“The overall conclusion,” the researchers wrote in the study, “is that male scholars will have a much smoother ride.”



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