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Sexism in STEM

Sexism in STEM

Our sister community STEM Women on G+ discuss the nuances of #EverydaySexism  that academic scientists face. Sexism can take many forms: some are apparent and overtly hostile, others may be unintentional and fall under benevolent sexism. Nevertheless, these two forms of sexism go hand in hand. In a landmark study of 15,000 men and women from 19 countries, Glick and Fiske (1996) found that  hostile and benevolent sexism tend to correlate highly across nations. Also, that benevolent sexism was a significant predictor of nationwide gender inequality, Here’s a handy summary to help you be a better colleague and supporter of STEM:

Originally shared by The Other Sociologist

Everyday Sexism in Academia

Earlier today, I co-hosted a panel discussion by STEM Women on G+ on Everyday Sexism in Academia, along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe a Molecular Biologist from the UK. Our guests were Professor Rajini Rao PhD  in Biochemistry who runs her own lab at Johns Hopkins University USA, and Dr Tommy Leung, Evolutionary Biologist with the University of New England, Australia. 

We discussed the sociological definition of everyday sexism, which demonstrates how everyday social exchanges between individuals are connected to institutional discrimination. Specifically, how conversations between academic colleagues that are sometimes called “benevolent” or “unintentional” sexism, are actually the outcome of systemic issues of gender inequality. This includes “jokes” that play on a woman’s gender and sexuality (“You’re a cheap date”); complimenting a woman on her looks and propositioning a junior colleague at a conference; and critiquing a woman scientist for the way she speaks, such as saying she’s “too aggressive” in negotiations or “not nice enough” when addressing sexism (this is often known as “tone policing”).

We also covered the recent case where the Journal of Proteomics published a photo of a bare chested woman in an abstract to promote a scientific paper (more on this later but you can read our article on our STEM Woman website Finally we discussed how, even in professional contexts, people often discuss women scientists as mothers and wives first, rather than focusing on their professional achievements. For example in The New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill (

Everyday sexism shows that women’s gender is a both a barrier to professional recognition, as well as a heavily policed focal point of scrutiny.

People think these seemingly innocuous examples of sexism are subjective – that women should just take a joke and not be “so sensitive.” We showed how social science actually connects these everyday comments to the professional barriers that women face in their scientific careers. This includes women’s pay, their career progression and professional esteem, their publications, women’s contribution and participation in STEM, and other more overt forms of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

#sociology #gender #feminism #science #stem #stemwomen #womeninstem


Join the Conversation


  1. Like my calc professor pointing out me and the only other girl in his class as those bio students and women who will likely drop out. Refused to help us and made other comments until we were forced to drop his class? And also, the university’s attitude that it was a shame but they wouldn’t do anything for it?


  2. This is interesting, especially when we are all spoon fed that modern Academia is above all that medieval archaic behavior of Christendom’s past when they ran the Academic show.


  3. The worst sexism for women comes from other women demeaning any female who doesn’t depend on a man, worry about her fingernails and hair, or who would DARE have a scientific career or be creative…Don’t be a foolish woman; support every woman who tries to achieve her potential!


  4. You’re absolutely right, Alicia Patrick socialisation forces people to accept that gender differences are innate an immutable, but they are not! K. Williams Anatoliya Taran thanks for your comments!


  5. Martin Lewitt Your comment is incredibly ignorant and won’t be tolerated. We are an interdisciplinary community that embraces the major branches of science. Issues of equality and diversity are central to our aims as a community supporting STEM outreach.


  6. It would seem rather that the persistence of gender differences, despite mild to no socialization enforcing them, is what forces people to accept that they are innate.  However, it is hard to think of a character which varies so greatly within a gender and overlaps so much between the genders as invariable or immutable.  Still, it is rather unscientific to deny the existence of innate gender differences.  If such denial is a characteristic of STEM Women, they are a contradiction in terms as an identity.


  7. Science on Google+ Are we about “science” on google+ or ideology on google+?   Are you a denier of innate gender differences?  If you have a problem with innate gender differences take it up with evolution and natural selection.


  8. Martin Lewitt You are wildly mistaken about the science – you’ve googled a search of general terms without knowledge of the science. Which of these studies have you actually read and understood? None. This page is run by a team of 18 practising scientists who have PhDs, and who work and publish in specialist fields. Several of our Moderators specifically publish on gender research.

    Studies of gender differences show that socialisation, institutional barriers and cultural forces produce different outcomes amongst genders ( These are not “innate” differences. This has nothing to do with natural selection. The research on gender inequality in STEM is already well documented. Regardless, this post is about addressing sexism in academia. Your sexism denial is not only off topic, you are also contributing to sexism.  We have a zero tolerance for this behaviour.


  9. Martin Lewitt  first of all, the post was about everyday sexism: the sort of casual sexism that exists in academia and illustrated by five common scenarios. Clearly, you had not bothered to watch the video because you jumped in a with statement on innate gender differences that was irrelevant to the post and effectively derailed it. For that alone, you warranted being removed and banned. 

    Second, you googled a search term but evidently did not look too closely at the search results. The paper I clicked on was a “meta-analysis of 100 studies (published 1963–1988) of gender differences in mathematics performance. They yielded 254 independent effect sizes, representing the testing of 3,175,188 Ss. Averaged overall effect sizes based on samples of the general population indicated that females outperformed males by only a negligible amount”. Another paper on gender differences in ADHD found no, or minor differences in behavior: “Gender differences were not found in impulsivity, academic performance, social functioning, fine motor skills, parental education, or parental depression.” Importantly, the conclusion warns against referral bias. All very interesting of course, but again, not related to the topic of everyday sexism in academia. 

    Third, the study you cite in this rebuttal post on your profile ( is a poster child for overreaching media hype and has been sharply criticized by many scientists for statistical problems. I refer you to this blog which links to several other sources:
    Let’s think rigorously here: assuming there are wiring differences, the interpretation dredged up now-debunked ideas of left brain/right brain differences. See for a discussion on problems with assigning functional differences to connectivity differences. 

    In the end, I’m not really sure what your point in all this is? Are you saying that women are not intellectually equal to men and/or that gender bias does not exist in academia? There are plenty of peer reviewed studies that address and refute both points.  


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