PerspectiveSocial Science

Gender inequality in science

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Science  16 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6219, pp. 234-235
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3781

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Why are women underrepresented in many areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? This is a question with no easy answers. In science, as in many areas of life, bias against women exists (1), but researchers disagree on how much bias matters: Some suggest that the effects of bias accumulate over time to shape careers (2), whereas others argue that gender differences in preferences are much more important (3). However, it is likely impossible to disentangle the effects of societal bias and individual preferences, because people's understanding of gender differences shape their preferences (4). Research suggests differences in innate ability are unlikely to play a major role (3), but one route to more equal representation across academic fields might be convincing both women and men that this is true. On page 262 of this issue, Leslie et al. (5) show that how ability is viewed within a field plays a key role in how well women are represented.