sex-bias in our lifetimes

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Fri Sep 26 15:20:58 EST 1997

In article <60ea9a$ju6$1 at>, nishir at (Rae Nishi) wrote:

> The bias these days is rarely overt.  The kind that drives me crazy is
> the type where women happen to get "overlooked".  One year at my
> institution there was not a single woman speaker invited for a seminar
> series that had a speaker every week for the entire academic year (the
> following year I got together with another female faculty member and
> drew up a list of about 30 prominent women neuroscientists and gave it
> to the organizer of the seminar series). 

     Unfortunately, this type of bias needs to be pointed out to men. Even
those who would consider themselves rather pro-feminist just don't notice
the relative scarcity of women attending meetings and their absence on
seminar programs. Pointing out the disparity can sensitize people to the
issue, leading to a conscious effort to be more inclusive. Rae's suggestion
of providing names is a great idea, but I hope that the need for these
measures decreases over time.

There was also a study
> published in Nature about gender bias in grant reviews-- women applying
> for postdoctoral fellowships (in Sweden, I think) were consistently
> rated lower than men with equal or worse qualifications.  When anyone
> asks (the male) scientists 'who's hot' in science, the answer is rarely
> a woman scientist even though there are plenty publishing in prominent
> journals and doing great work.  Although we can try very hard to raise
> everyone's awareness, this type of subconscious bias is very difficult
> to combat.  I think it's similar to the problem of teachers not calling
> on girls as often as boys to answer questions (they don't consciously
> do this, it just happens--  how many other opportunities are the girls
> missing because they don't come to  mind as standing out?). 
> Rae

     There was a related thread a while back about the difficulty women may
encounterin attempting to air their views in public. I believe specific
instances of "oversight" were mentioned. Anyone recall?


Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Associate Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

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