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Blogger: When it Comes to Discrimination, Don't Be Fooled by Anecdotes

DrdrA at the Blue Lab Coats blog says it's easy to be fooled by anecdotal evidence when it comes to gender discrimination in science — just because some haven't personally experienced the cold hand of discrimination, doesn't mean that all women get a fair shake. "This flavor of conversation usually goes further — from male and female colleagues alike — to conclude that women are under-represented at the upper echelons of science because they [either] one, dropped out to have children, or two, didn’t want to work hard — or weren't equally motivated with the men who made it up to that rarefied atmosphere of full professorship, national academy membership or whatever," she writes. But even as DrdrA admits that she, herself, has never felt discriminated against, one person's experience isn't as telling as data. Of all 537 Nobel Prize-winning scientists since 1901, only 2.8 percent have been women, and only 1.5 percent of them have been in physics or chemistry, she says. "Hmmmm. That data hit me squarely in the face — 2.8 percent is pretty freaking low," she adds. She wonders why that's the case when women obtained more than half of the bachelor's degrees in science in 2001. Is it because women have families or are less motivated than men? "No matter how rainbow and unicorn your own private academic science experience with an n=1 is, take a look around at the actual data. There is a gender disparity in academic science," she suggests. But no matter what your personal experience has been, DrdrA cautions, it's time to examine what can be done about gender discrimination in science.

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