Women In Science and Engineering Stymied By Institutional Bias (Or, F*** Off, Larry Summers!)

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At a ASJA/Berkeley J-School editors’ forum I participated in last weekend, a hotly debated topic was what biases do or do not hinder women in journalism, particularly in terms of the byline divide.

So I was shocked, shocked! to read that a report from the National Academy of Sciences has found that women in the science and engineering are hindered not by lack of ability but by bias and “outmoded institutional structures” in academia.

The NAS report found:

Studies have not found any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in academic faculty and leadership positions in S&T fields.

Compared with men, women faculty members are generally paid less and promoted more slowly, receive fewer honors, and hold fewer leadership positions. These discrepancies do not appear to be based on productivity, the significance of their work, or any other performance measures, the report says.

•Measures of success underlying performance-evaluation systems are often arbitrary and frequently applied in ways that place women at a disadvantage. “Assertiveness,” for example, may be viewed as a socially unacceptable trait for women but suitable for men. Also, structural constraints and expectations built into academic institutions assume that faculty members have substantial support from their spouses. Anyone lacking the career and family support traditionally provided by a “wife” is at a serious disadvantage in academe, evidence shows. Today about 90 percent of the spouses of women science and engineering faculty are employed full time. For the spouses of male faculty, it is nearly half.

You can read the news release here.

And—for a hefty fee that really pisses me off seeing as the whole point of something like this is to challenge disinformation with easily accessible truth—download the full report here. (Should someone find a site where this is posted for free, let me know and I’ll pass it on.)

And you can read more about how women are stymied in other ways in “Limited Ambition: Why Women Can’t Win for Trying” a set of stats I put together for Mother Jones earlier this year.

BTW: The NYT saw fit to run the story about the NAS report in the Science section, which is fine, except why do all those bullshitty (statistically and otherwise) stories about women “opting out” always run on page 1?

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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