The Bias Against Women in Science: Why Women, As Well As Men, Are at Fault

According to Wikipedia’s self-published statistics, only 9% of Wikipedia Editors identify as female. The perspectives of such a widely-resourced database are actually being generated by a single gender, not representative of their diverse readership. The shocking imbalance has inspired the Royal Society to host an “edit-a-thon” on October 19th in order to pump up Wiki’s coverage of inspiring female leaders in the sciences and engineering fields.

The Royal Society, a self-governed fellowship supporting science, engineering, and medicine, is demonstrating an honorable and public step in the right direction. The dearth of female role models in the sciences affects not only aspiring young females but rather the society in which they are being cultured.

A recent New York Times article (I highly recommend reading) exposed the disheartening results of a Yale University study on gender perceptions in science. According to the study, professors were more likely to view male students as more competent, regardless of actual performance. Therefore, females were less likely to be hired, receive equal salaries and mentorship. Not only were the results shocking in the existence of such biases but in the strength of the biases found as well.

Both Wiki’s gender biases as well as the Yale findings highlight a larger, glaring problem: the lack of public recognition for female accomplishment in stereotypically male worlds. Based on personal findings, my female friends and co-workers tend to be less vocal about their own accomplishments and often less demanding of attention. This is by no means a fault of simply males — female professors were guilty of the same biases as the male professors according to Yale’s findings.

While such findings paint a disheartening picture, hopefully more individuals and corporations will follow in the footsteps of the Royal Society. But in order to change perceptions, the day-to-day language needs to shift so that females in the sciences are viewed as norms rather than exceptions. According to the BBC, the majority of doctors in 2012 will be female. The archaic views are not representative of the female presence in the sciences; it is time society, and Wikipedia, starts not only accepting but also supporting and recognizing the strengths of female contributions in such fields.

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Perry Nagin

After working as a middle school science teacher in Manhattan, I worked in research at the International Trauma Studies Program as well as in the Pediatrics Department at NYU/Bellevue. I am currently a medical student at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia.

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