Tag Archives: sexism

It’s official: College men think they’re smarter than they really are

If you think women in science don’t have it hard — then you’re probably not a woman in science.

We all know that overconfident personality, the type who thinks they’re so much better than they really are. We also know that one person who’s really good, but doesn’t have enough confidence. Well, as a new study has shown, the odds are that that first person is a man, and the second one is a woman.

Katelyn Cooper, a PhD student at Arizona State University School of Life Sciences and her adviser, assistant professor Sara Brownell, wanted to study this effect on biology undergrads.

The average grade of the class was 3.3. But when they asked students if they thought they were smarter than the average, male students thought they were smarter than 66 percent of the class, whereas female students thought they were smarter than 54 percent of the class.

Of course, most people tend to slightly overestimate their results, but the difference between the male and female students was quite significant. Men were also three times more likely than women to say they were smarter than the classmate they worked with most closely. This isn’t necessarily a new find.

“This echoes what has been previously shown in the literature; a review of nearly 20 published papers on self-estimated intelligence concluded that men rate themselves higher than women on self-estimated intelligence,” Cooper and Brownell wrote in their report, published in Advances in Physiology Education.

“More and more of these studies are painting similar pictures,” Brownell said.

It’s no secret that STEM is being dominated by men, and women still struggle to establish a solid position in many fields of science and industry. The antiquated, long-held beliefs that men are somehow better than women at subjects like math or physics have long been disproved but unfortunately, unhealthy attitudes still persist.

In terms of Cooper and Brownell’s study, they already identified immediate consequences of this issue:

“Females are not participating as much in science class. They are not raising their hands and answering questions.”

It’s not just a self-attitude — it spills into interpersonal relationships as well. It’s common for women to feel the disdain of their colleagues or to face disproportionate challenges in their careers. These may seem like inconsequential factors, but they do add up and consolidate an unhealthy attitude for all people involved.

It’s important to note however that the findings didn’t apply only to women: non-native English people were also exposed to similar doubts.

“We found that men and native English speakers had significantly higher academic self-concept relative to the whole class compared with women and non-native English speakers, respectively,” the study concludes.

Journal Reference: Katelyn M. Cooper, Anna Krieg, and Sara E. Brownell. Who perceives they are smarter? Exploring the influence of student characteristics on student academic self-concept in physiology. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00085.2017

Video games might make you more sexist, but not as much as religion

The way women are portrayed in many video games — attractive, scantily clad, performing limited roles — sends a powerful message to gamers, making them more subjective to sexism.

Playing video games might make teens a bit more sexist. Image credits: R Pollard.

Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, followed some 13,000 adolescents aged 11 to 19, who spent approximately three hours a day watching TV and nearly two hours playing video games, on average. He found a very small, but significant connection between video games and sexism.

However, it’s not like video games are ruining the pristine minds of teenagers — “traditional values” do much more harm in this case. Gentile didn’t only look at the video games, he also studied the impact of television and religion, finding that religion was three times more likely to make teens sexist.

“Many different aspects of life can influence sexist attitudes. It was surprising to find a small but significant link between game play and sexism. Video games are not intended to teach sexist views, but most people don’t realize how attitudes can shift with practice,” Gentile said. “Nonetheless, much of our learning is not conscious and we pick up on subtle cues without realizing it.”

To measure the impact, researchers asked participants how much they agree or disagree with the following statement:

  • “A woman is made mainly for making and raising children.”

GTA is a game where women are particularly sexualized.

Participants who spent more time playing video games were more likely to agree, and participants who were religious were even more likely to agree. The fact that religion is much more impactful in terms of sexism is really worrying, though this was not the central focus of this study. Another interesting finding was that sexism was also connected with lower social economic status in teenagers.

Repeated exposure to media also changes our perception, and there’s a lot to be improved with how women are represented on television as well. Basically, it’s not necessarily that video games are sexist in nature, it’s more that they are another type of media where women are misrepresented. This is the so-called cultivation theory, which states that the more people watch TV, the more likely they are to believe that the reality presented on TV is the real reality. In this sense, a similar thing could be applied to games, especially role-playing games where players pick a character and walk through his or her decisions.

“If you repeatedly ‘practice’ various decisions and choices in games, this practice can influence your attitudes and behaviors outside of the gaming world,” Gentile said.

These findings go against those of a previous study, conducted in Germany. In 2015, researchers found no connection between video games and sexism. The fact that this new study was conducted in the US and the 2015 one was carried out in Germany, and they came up with different conclusions, might indicate that culture (and of course, religion) also play an important role. However, Gentile says the results are applicable across cultures because this study is focused on learning behavior, not on inherited traits. How we learn and adapt to cues is independent of culture, he argues.

Journal Reference: Laurent Bègue, Elisa Sarda, Douglas A. Gentile, Clementine Bry and Sebastian Roche — Video Games Exposure and Sexism in a Representative Sample of Adolescents. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00466

Credit: “Double Jeopardy: Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science

Sexism and racism in STEM: women scientists of color mistaken for janitors

A new report highlights the reprehensible state of women working in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics— where they’re not only under represented, but also under constant pressure to over perform. The report also stresses how sexism and racism is “still a thing” in labs, universities and technology companies. In fact, there’s seems to be an entrenched thinking that women don’t have any place in a scientific institution, how else could you explain that almost half of Black and Latina women working as scientists have been mistaken for a janitor or an administrator of their offices?

Credit:  “Double Jeopardy: Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science

Credit: “Double Jeopardy: Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science

As one Latina statistician told researchers, “I always amuse my friends with my janitor stories, but it has happened not only at weird hours.” She calmly informed someone that she had the key to the office, not the janitor’s closet.

The report, called  “Double Jeopardy: Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science,” was released by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, which surveyed 500 female scientists and conducted in-depth interviews with 60 more.

Everybody knows there’s a wide STEM gender gap, with women out numbered three to one. The problem starts as early as grade school. Young girls are rarely encouraged to pursue math and science, which is problematic considering studies show a lack of belief in intellectual growth can actually inhibit it. In addition, there exists an unconscious bias that science and math are typically “male” fields while humanities and arts are primarily “female” fields, and these stereotypes further inhibit girls’ likelihood of cultivating an interest in math and science. This is conventional thinking of course. It’s true, but only half the story. What isn’t mentioned is the hostile and discouraging environment that many women face in male-dominated classrooms, offices, and labs. Of the 60 scientists interviewed in the report, 100 percent reported that they had experienced gender discrimination during their careers. STEM women are also under constant fire to prove themselves; 75 percent of the African-American women scientists surveyed reported having to prove their intelligence over and over again.

These are the four distinct and pervasive patterns of discrimination across STEM careers:

1. Prove It Again: Women often have to provide more evidence of being competent to be treated as equally capable as men. Even then, one study found that when a man and a woman had equal math skills, 90 percent of the time, employers would choose to hire the man.

2. The Tightrope: Women find themselves walking a fine line between being seen as “too feminine to be competent” and “too masculine to be likable.” Half of all the women interviewed said they experienced backlash for being assertive. Latina women in STEM fields are especially likely to say that their coworkers accuse them of being “angry.”

3. The Maternal Wall: Women working in STEM fields face the assumption from their colleagues that their commitment to their work will fade if they have kids. On the other hand, many women without kids report being expected to work longer hours because they aren’t raising children.

4. Tug of War: Women who experience gender bias early in their careers are more likely to distance themselves from women. The researchers call this the “queen bee” effect.

Sarah Mirk, a writer for Bitchmedia thinks the lack of women—and especially women of color—in labs, computer-science jobs, and math careers across the country is symptomatic of deep racism and sexism in our culture. “In order to help the number of female scientists grow, we need to get to a point where none of them are routinely mistaken for janitors,” she goes on to say. I think we all can agree to that.