Women in Academia

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Science  03 Sep 1971:
Vol. 173, Issue 4000, pp. 892-895
DOI: 10.1126/science.173.4000.892


Although our study was conducted in only one physical science discipline, and although most of the individual tests did not yield statistically significant differences, the data consistently yielded a trend in the direction of the existence of discrimination against women in academia. This leads us to the tentative conclusion that when two equally qualified applicants are being considered for an academic position, a male would be chosen over a female. However, a woman with clearly superior qualifications, in competition with an average man, is likely to be recognized. The bias seems to hold especially for higher-quality schools, in departments with younger and newer chairmen, and for chairmen from schools located in the eastern and western parts of the country.

The underutilization of potentially qualified women in science represents lost opportunities to society and to science in terms of the overall goal of advancing science. To the extent that the bias reflects strongly held cultural norms, change will come slowly. However, structural changes within the institutions that employ and train women scientists may be achieved sooner through the active intervention of outside agencies, for example, the enforcement by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare of the Equal Opportunities Act in colleges and universities (19). In addition, such federal grant-awarding agencies as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health could be given a mandate to make a special effort to identify and award grants and other forms of recognition to deserving women scientist.