Gender Bias in STEM

Why Does Gender Bias in Academia and the STEM Fields Matter?

Gender bias still exists in STEM and academia. In fact, among full professors at all institutions nationwide in 2005-2006, women held 24% of the positions and men held 76% with the lowest percentages of women in the most prestigious and highest paid faculty jobs.

Gender bias typically stems not from malevolence, but from the perceived mismatch between the “typical woman” and the requirements of jobs that historically were held by men such as professor, scientist, and investment banker. In fact, many of the historically male dominated jobs are still held predominantly by men. For example, tenure-track jobs at research institutions still are 70-80% male.


Department chairs find themselves unable to compete for the best candidates when unwitting remarks by a committee member signal a chilly climate to one candidate after another. Losing women is expensive. Average start-up packages for scientists are often $300,000 to $500,000 or more. If a department loses one woman after another, these costs add up fast. Click here to learn more about the Economics of Retaining Women in Academia.

Level-the-Playing-Field Workshops

thumb-online-trainingIt is clearly recognized that marriage, childbearing and caregiving are major factors that push women out of the scientific pipeline. Studies also show that gender bias plays a role as well. Our team has engaged in extensive research to determine when and why women drop out of the pipeline. The Level-the-Playing-Field Workshops are a series of short visual presentations aimed at a variety of audiences. These online workshops review all we have learned about what works and what doesn’t in creating a workplace which doesn’t push out women out of the pipeline.

Instant Online Access

Gender Bias Learning Project

fourpatterns-iconGender bias in STEM academia is alive and well. Identifying and understanding the distinct patterns of gender bias is the first step towards ensuring that bias does not derail your career. The Center for WorkLife Law, with support from a NSF ADVANCE leadership grant, has developed this on-line gender bias training that teaches you to identify the four basic patterns of gender bias.

Although gender bias is a serious topic with professionally damaging consequences, WorkLife Law’s gender bias training website offers a zany, brainy approach that allows you to learn what you need to know, share your experiences, and have fun in the process.

This training also provides survival strategies for handling each type of bias, as well as:

  • A series of animated video scenarios illustrating each pattern
  • Video clips from interviews with gender bias experts
  • A pop quiz to help you test your knowledge
  • An on-line game: Gender Bias Bingo

Launch Website

What Works for Women at Work: Individual Strategies for Overcoming Gender Bias

thumb-wwww-guideWorklife Law has compiled a list of individual strategies for overcoming gender bias. Individual Strategies are not solutions, however, knowing how to identify gender bias and understanding how to overcome this bias is key to a woman’s success.

Download Individual Strategies Guide

What Works for Women at Work

w4-book-coverAn essential resource for any working woman, What Works for Women at Work is a comprehensive and insightful guide for mastering office politics as a woman. Authored by Joan C. Williams, one of the nation’s most-cited experts on women and work, and her daughter, writer Rachel Dempsey, this unique book offers a multi-generational perspective on the realities of today’s workplace. Often women receive the message that they have only themselves to blame for failing to get ahead:  —Negotiate more! –Stop being such a wimp! –Stop being such a witch! What Works for Women at Work tells women it’s not their fault. The simple fact is that office politics often benefit men over women. Visit book website.

Double Jeopardy?: How Gender Bias Differs by Race

In this report, Joan Williams presents her research on how the experience of gender bias differs by race. Williams began from a literature review of 35 years of experimental social psychology studies and developed an interview protocol with which her team interviewed 60 women of color of color in science. One hundred percent of the scientists reported experiences of gender bias—but their experiences differed. Women of each racial group experience gender bias in patterned ways that have never before been explored. Just one example: Women from every group report having to provide more evidence of competence than men in order to be perceived as equally competent, but black women (alone) report feeling they can never make a single mistake. This “double jeopardy” of race and gender is found in all of the four basic patterns of bias and can add an additional layer of complexity as women of color navigate professional situations..

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