Sociological Images points to a study showing a bias among science professors against hiring female undergraduates for a lab job – even when the person doing the hiring is female. The professors were asked to evaluate mock job applications. The applications were identical, but the gender of the applicant was randomised – half were named “John,” and half, “Jennifer.” As Sociological Images puts it,
Just thinking an applicant was female seems to have touched off an unconscious bias that led [the professors] to see female candidates negatively and to be less willing to spend time mentoring them.
The study also found that the professors were biased in favour of thinking warmly of the female candidates – they thought they were really nice. They just didn’t want to hire them.
Here are some of the results from the study:
This offers us a peek into one of the stereotypes that are still going strong in our culture – stereotypes which are made no less harmful by the fact that they are, at least to a degree, unconscious. It’s the old idea that boys are smart and inquisitive, and girls are “sugar and spice.” It’s also what that awful “Science: It’s a girl thing!” video from the EU fell victim to.
We’ve all got these biases, as is demonstrated by the very interesting and highly addictive Project Implicit, run by Harvard researchers. The project uses a simple computer-based test to tease out your unconscious biases, so that you too, can find out just how unconsciously racist, sexist, or homophobic you are! Here’s a video showing the test in action, demonstrating bias against short men (HT, once again, Sociological Images). Take the tests here.