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Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as ificantly more competent and hireable than the identical female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.

The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. These suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science. This assertion has received substantial attention and generated ificant debate among the scientific community, leading some to conclude that gender discrimination indeed does not exist nor contribute to the gender disparity within academic science e.

Despite this controversy, experimental research testing for the presence and magnitude of gender discrimination in the biological and physical sciences has yet to be conducted. Specifically, the present experiment examined whether, given an equally qualified male and female student, science faculty members would show preferential evaluation and treatment of the male student to work in their laboratory. If faculty express gender biases, we are not suggesting that these biases are intentional or stem from a conscious desire to impede the progress of women in science.

Despite ificant decreases in overt sexism over the last few decades particularly among highly educated people 16these subtle gender biases are often still held by even the most egalitarian individuals 17and are exhibited by both men and women Given this body of work, we expected that female faculty would be just as likely as male faculty to express an unintended bias against female undergraduate science students.

The fact that these prevalent biases often remain undetected highlights the need for an experimental investigation to determine whether they may be present within academic science and, if so, raise awareness of their potential impact. Whether these gender biases operate in academic sciences remains an open question.

On the other hand, research demonstrates that people who value their objectivity and fairness are paradoxically particularly likely to fall prey to biases, in part because they are not on guard against subtle bias 24 Thus, by investigating whether science faculty exhibit a bias that could contribute to the gender disparity within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in which objectivity is emphasizedthe current study Looking for a woman with f critical theoretical and practical gaps in that it provided an experimental test of faculty discrimination against female students within academic science.

A of lines of research suggest that such discrimination is likely. Science is robustly male gender-typed 2627resources are inequitably distributed among men and women in many academic science settings 28some undergraduate women perceive unequal treatment of the genders within science fields 29and nonexperimental evidence suggests that gender bias is present in other fields Some experimental evidence suggests that even though evaluators report liking women more than men 15they judge women as less competent than men even when they have identical backgrounds However, these studies used undergraduate students as participants rather than experienced faculty membersand focused on performance domains outside of academic science, such as completing perceptual tasks 21writing nonscience articles 22and being evaluated for a corporate managerial position Thus, whether aspiring women scientists encounter discrimination from faculty members remains unknown.

Therefore, we selected this career stage as the focus of the present study because it represents an opportunity to address issues that manifest immediately and also resurface much later, potentially contributing to the persistent faculty gender disparity 32 In addition to determining whether faculty expressed a bias against female students, we also sought to identify the processes contributing to this bias.

These generalized, subtly biased attitudes toward women could impel faculty to judge equivalent students differently as a function of their gender. The present study sought to test for differences in faculty perceptions and treatment of equally qualified men and women pursuing careers in science and, if such a bias were discovered, reveal its mechanisms and consequences within academic science.

We focused on hiring for a laboratory manager position as the primary dependent variable of interest because it functions as a professional launching pad for subsequent opportunities. As secondary measures, which are related to hiring, we assessed: i perceived student competence; ii salary offers, which reflect the extent to which a student is valued for these competitive positions; and iii the extent to which the student was viewed as deserving of faculty mentoring.

Faculty participants believed that their feedback would be shared with the student they had rated see Materials and Methods for details. These support hypothesis A. Competence, hireability, and mentoring by student gender condition collapsed across faculty gender. Scales range from 1 to 7, with higher s reflecting a greater extent of each variable. Error bars represent SEs. Means for student competence, hireability, mentoring and salary conferral by student gender condition and faculty gender. Salary conferral by student gender condition collapsed across faculty gender.

In support of hypothesis B, faculty gender did not affect bias Table 1. Thus, the bias appears Looking for a woman with f among faculty and is not limited to a certain demographic subgroup. Thus far, we have considered the for competence, hireability, salary conferral, and mentoring separately to demonstrate the converging across these individual measures. However, composite indices of measures that converge on an underlying construct are more statistically reliable, stable, and resistant to error than are each of the individual items e.

Consistent with this logic, the established approach to measuring the broad concept of target competence typically used in this type of gender bias research is to standardize and average the competence scale items and the salary conferral variable to create one composite competence index, and to use this stable convergent measure for all analyses e.

Because this approach obscures mean salary differences between targets, we chose to present salary as a distinct dependent variable up to this point, to enable a direct test of the potential discrepancy in salary offered to the male and female student targets. This composite competence variable was used in all subsequent mediation and moderation analyses. Evidence emerged for hypothesis C, the predicted mediation i.

This pattern of provides evidence for full mediation, indicating that the female student was less likely to be hired than the identical male because she was viewed as less competent overall. Student gender difference hiring mediation. Values are standardized regression coefficients. The value in parentheses reflects a bivariate analysis. The dashed line represents the mediated path. The composite student competence variable consists of the averaged standardized salary variable and the competence scale items.

We also conducted moderation analysis i. For this purpose, we administered the Modern Sexism Scale 38a well-validated instrument frequently used for this purpose SI Materials and Methods. Consistent with our intentions, this scale measures unintentional negativity toward women, as contrasted with a more blatant form of conscious hostility toward women. To interpret these ificant interactions, we examined the simple effects separately by student gender. These findings support hypothesis D. Finally, using a ly validated scale, we also measured how much faculty participants liked the student see SI Materials and Methods.

However, consistent with this literature, liking the female student more than the male student did not translate into positive perceptions of her composite competence or material outcomes in the form of a job offer, an equitable salary, or valuable career mentoring.

These findings underscore the point that faculty participants did not exhibit outright hostility or dislike toward female students, but were instead affected by pervasive gender stereotypes, unintentionally downgrading the competence, hireability, salary, and mentoring of a female student compared with an identical male. The present study is unique in investigating subtle gender bias on the part of faculty in the biological and physical sciences. It therefore informs the debate on possible causes of the gender disparity in academic science by providing unique experimental evidence that science faculty of both genders exhibit bias against female undergraduates.

As a controlled experiment, it fills a critical gap in the existing literature, which consisted only of experiments in other domains with undergraduate students as participants and correlational data that could not conclusively rule out the influence of other variables. Our revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring.

Thus, the current suggest that subtle gender bias is important to address because it could translate into large real-world disadvantages in the judgment and treatment of female science students Moreover, our mediation findings shed light on the processes responsible for this bias, suggesting that the female student was less likely to be hired than the male student because she was perceived as less competent.

Use of a randomized controlled de and established practices from audit study methodology support the ecological validity and educational implications of our findings SI Materials and Methods. It is noteworthy that female faculty members were just as likely as their male colleagues to favor the male student. Our careful selection of expert Looking for a woman with f revealed gender discrimination among existing science faculty members who interact with students on a regular basis SI Materials and Methods: Subjects and Recruitment Strategy. This method allowed for a high degree of ecological validity and generalizability relative to an approach using nonexpert participants, such as other undergraduates or lay people unfamiliar with laboratory manager job requirements and academic science mentoring i.

The presented here reinforce those of Stenpries, Anders, and Ritzke 40the only other experiment we know of that recruited faculty participants. In the Steinpreis et al. This work invited a study that would extend the finding to faculty in the biological and physical sciences and to reactions to undergraduates, whose competence was not already fairly established by accomplishments associated with the advanced career status of the faculty target group of the study.

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Following conventions established in classic experimental studies to create enough ambiguity to leave room for potentially biased responses 2023the student applicants in the present research were described as qualified to succeed in academic science i. As such, they represented a majority of aspiring scientists, and were precisely the type of students most affected by faculty judgments and mentoring see SI Materials and Methods for more discussion.

Our raise the possibility that not only do such women encounter biased judgments of their competence and hireability, but also receive less faculty encouragement and financial rewards than identical male counterparts. Likewise, inasmuch as the advice and mentoring that students receive affect their ambitions and choices, it is ificant that the faculty in this study were less inclined to mentor women than men. This finding raises the possibility that women may opt out of academic science careers in part because of diminished competence judgments, rewards, and mentoring received in the early years of the careers.

Thus, the present study not only fills an important gap in the research literature, but also has critical implications for pressing social and educational issues associated with the gender disparity in science. Our suggest that academic policies and mentoring interventions targeting undergraduate advisors could contribute to reducing the gender disparity. Future research should evaluate the efficacy of educating faculty and students about the existence and impact of bias within academia, an approach that has reduced racial bias among students Without such actions, faculty bias against female undergraduates may continue to undermine meritocratic advancement, to the detriment of research and education.

The dearth of women within academic science reflects a ificant wasted opportunity to benefit from the capabilities of our best potential scientists, whether male or female.

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Although women have begun to enter some science fields in greater s 5their mere increased presence is not evidence of the absence of bias. Rather, some women may persist in academic science despite the damaging effects of unintended gender bias on the part of faculty. We recruited faculty participants from Biology, Chemistry, and Physics departments at three public and three private large, geographically diverse research-intensive universities in the United States, strategically selected for their representative characteristics see SI Materials and Methods for more information on department selection.

The demographics of the respondents corresponded to both the averages for the selected departments and faculty at all United States research-intensive institutions, meeting the criteria for generalizability even from nonrandom samples see SI Materials and Methods for more information on recruitment strategy and participant characteristics.

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Indeed, we were particularly careful to obtain a sample representative of the underlying population, because many past studies have demonstrated that when this is the case, respondents and nonrespondents typically do not differ on demographic characteristics and responses to focal variables Additionally, in keeping with recommended practices, we conducted an a priori power analysis before beginning data collection to determine the optimal sample size needed to detect effects without biasing toward obtaining ificance SI Materials and Methods: Subjects and Recruitment Strategy Thus, although our sample size may appear small to some readers, it is important to note that we obtained the necessary power and representativeness to generalize from our while purposefully avoiding an unnecessarily large sample that could have biased our toward a false-positive type I error Participants were asked to provide feedback on the materials of an undergraduate science student who stated their intention to go on to graduate school, and who had recently applied for a science laboratory manager position.

S1 for the full text of the cover story.

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Following established practices, the laboratory manager application was deed to reflect high but slightly ambiguous competence, allowing for variability in participant responses 20 The materials were developed in consultation with a panel of academic science researchers who had extensive experience hiring and supervising student research assistants to ensure that they would be perceived as realistic SI Materials and Methods.

of a funneled debriefing 49 indicated that this was successful; no participant reported suspicions that the target was not an actual student who would receive their evaluation. Thus, each participant saw only one set of materials, from either the male or female applicant see Fig. S2 for the full text of the laboratory manager application and SI Method and Materials for more information on all materials. Using validated scales, participants rated student competence, their own likelihood of hiring the student, selected an annual starting salary for the student, indicated how much career mentoring they would provide to such a student, and completed the Modern Sexism Scale.

Author contributions: C. This article contains supporting information online at www. We do not capture any address. Corinne A. Abstract Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Current Study In addition to determining whether faculty expressed a bias against female students, we also sought to identify the processes contributing to this bias.

Student Gender Differences.

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