Thursday, July 24, 2008

Evidence of Sex Discrimination in the Sciences?

From a NY Times blog:

Debra Rolison, a chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory, gave a talk eight years ago at the National Academies of Science. It was called, “A Title IX Challenge to Academic Chemistry: Isn’t a Millennium of Affirmative Action for White Men Sufficient?” Now that her proposal to actively apply Title IX to physical sciences and engineering has been adopted at federal agencies (as I wrote in my Findings column), I’ve been looking at the evidence for bias against women in science. After considering physics last week, let’s examine chemistry and some other fields........

.......You’ll find sweeping assertions of discrimination in academia against female scientists if you read the executive summary of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 report, which was issued by a committee led by Donna Shalala. But if you look in the report for evidence of bias, you find studies showing that female graduate students in general (and those without children in particular) are as likely as men to finish their studies, and that they’re as likely to have mentors and assistantship support. According to the report, there were some differences in productivity — male graduate students published more than female students, and tenured male professors published about 8 percent more than female tenured professors — but when men and women were up for tenure, they received it at similar rates.........

........I was also interested to see Dr. Nelson’s comparable figures for white males, because it certainly looks as if their “millennium of affirmative action” has ended. Dr. Nelson found that white male Ph.D.’s are overrepresented among assistant professors in just three disciplines: chemistry, biological sciences and psychology. They roughly break even in two other fields, political science and sociology. And they’re underrepresented in everything else — 10 of the 15 disciplines surveyed by Dr. Nelson.

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