University | 9:30 pm | October 1, 2012 | By Amy Wang

Urry discusses gender biases in sciences

Meg Urry published an op-ed on CNN on Monday.
Meg Urry published an op-ed on CNN on Monday. Photo by Amy Wang.

In an opinion piece published by CNN on Monday, Physics Department Chair Meg Urry argued that the discrepancy in the number of female faculty members in the sciences can be largely traced back to unconscious biases.

Urry cited evidence from social research that shows how women in STEM fields — which represents science, technology, engineering and mathematics — were considered “less capable” and “less worthy of hiring,” even though these women had identical credentials as their male counterparts.

In addition, Urry referred to other studies that show how people unconsciously consider the gender of a name on a résumé when evaluating a person’s skills.

“Objectivity is the core value of science,” Urry wrote. “But as the new study tells us, despite our best hopes, we scientists, like everyone else, expect men to be better scientists as women.”

Unconscious gender biases are too deeply ingrained within our society, Urry said. Instead of pretending to ignore the issue, she proposed that people try to acknowledge their inner biases and do their best to avoid them. By doing so, Urry said, it may be possible for “bright young women to move forward in STEM careers as easily as the men do, making discoveries, improving our lives, changing our preconceptions and reducing our unconscious biases.”

Urry also said gender biases can be found across a variety of work environments, including academia, law enforcement and medicine.

Interested students can test their own social objectivity by taking an online questionnaire.

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