I read with interest today a Guardian blog entry on the gender gap that exists in the life sciences. Writer Jenny Rohn does a great job outlining possible explanations for why there are so many more male professors in the field she trained in (biology) than females ones; about sexism, she writes:
In these more enlightened times – and given the deterrent of university employment tribunals – overt discrimination is probably not the major culprit any more. But in her wonderful book, Why So Slow? Advancement of Women, Virginia Valian painstakingly documents many studies showing the inherent, subconscious bias that both men and women have against female scientists, who unlike men, do not conform to the "schemata" ("capable", "independent", "can-do") that we tend to think of when we envision scientists. Picture a scientist in your head: the image is likely to be male. We're just wired that way. The same wiring causes internal dissonance when we are faced with a female scientist. Schemata are the same pesky things that prompt someone to say "What did he say?" when you mention you've been to see your doctor – even though about 40% of doctors in the UK are women, and are set to outnumber their male counterparts in only a few years.
Previously: Science, it’s a … bimbo thing?, Assuming “doctor” means “man”, Hannah Valantine: Leading the way in diversifying medicine, She’s a Barbie girl, living in a Barbie world (that discourages careers in science) and Pioneers in science