How many times have you been in a discussion and felt that you weren’t being heard or your views were being overlooked? Have you ever had the strange sense that your opinions were just slightly less important than other people in in the room?
A study was recently published in PNAS in which a fictional candidate for a science faculty position was created. This candidate was made into a male or a female with all other qualifications being the same. Then, faculty members at several different universities were shown one of the candidates and asked to rate the qualifications and name a starting salary. Across the board the female candidates were ranked lower in qualifications and given a lower starting salary than the same exact male candidate by male and female faculty members alike.
These results, while validating some of the experiences we have in male dominated fields, are also a wake up call to the biases that still exist in our culture. Often times, sexism is thought of as something blatantly obvious, like a male making an inappropriate comment about a female. Yet, we forget that both men and women can be sexist, and even more importantly that people are not even aware that they are sexist. My guess is that the faculty members used in this study would make an attempt to judge both candidates fairly regardless of sex. The results are not pinpointing sexist faculty members, they are a window into the greater problems which lie within our society. On the average, are women who do the same job as a man seen as less competent?