Workplace biases may push women away from STEM fields

March 31, 2015

A US-based study argues that workplace biases, rather than personal choices or "pipeline" issues, are pushing women away from the sciences. The research, based on interviews with more than 60 female scientists and a survey of 557 more, examines how a variety of biases affect women at work, also taking into account race and ethnicity. Two-thirds of women reported having their expertise questioned and being expected to prove themselves repeatedly; two-thirds reported having their commitment and competence questioned after having children; more than one-third reported feeling pressured to play a "traditionally female" role, such as "office mother" or "dutiful daughter"; and one-fifth reported feeling that they were "competing with [their] female colleagues for the 'woman's spot.'" A fifth bias was found to primarily affect black women: the perception that "socially engaging with ... colleagues may negatively affect perceptions of ... competence." Close to half of black women and Latina women said that they had been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff, compared with one-third of white women and slightly less than a quarter of Asian-American women. Harvard Business Review | Full Report