The reality of gender discrimination – in science

In my post on the gender pay gap and school performance – and the apparent disconnect between the two – I pondered thus:

Maybe it’s as callous as this:  boys doing less well at school is a problem because it highlights, as Beppie shows, just how bad the gender gap in employment is.  It shows categorically that men continuing to sit at the top table more and get paid the big bucks more is not down to superior performance nor training.

Well, I’m not alone in that thought.  In an article on sexual discrimination in science, an anonymous author (and I have no quibbles with hir anonymity, because saying this kind of thing can randomly coincide with a downturn in one’s career) tells us:

In total, 127 faculty members were asked to rank the candidate in terms of competence, starting salary they would offer, willingness to mentor the candidate, and likeability. The only difference in the applications was the name of the student – 63 were from “John” and 64 were from “Jennifer”.

The results were stark. Jennifer was ranked less competent than John and was offered a median starting salary almost $4,000 lower than John. In addition, the faculty was less willing to mentor Jennifer, but, strangely, found her to be more likeable. All this from a piece of paper.

And when considering why these kind of results get rejected, our author considers:

Despite the fact that hard data is difficult to argue with, many scientists managed it. My own explanation for this reaction is that on a subconscious level, data like this support the implication that men in science didn’t necessarily get there on merit alone, but also because their female competitors were being discriminated against. That must be quite threatening and hence provoked a defensive response.

Again I emphasise that we’re not saying you’re lazy, menfolk.  Just that, well … you could afford to be lazier than we could (assuming the Guardian article’s author is a woman.)  You didn’t have to be as exceptional to get where you are.

That’s what privilege is all about.

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