Being female in the sciences or academic setting includes the obvious challenges of salary and role inequity.
In most places, this imbalance is reflected in the ways that institutions privilege men in hiring, promotion, and compensation. For example, some research suggests that both male and female science professors look at a resume more positively if they think the applicant is a man (Bernstein, 2014). One study at Yale University reported that, given the choice between identical male and female faculty applicants, tenured and tenure-track faculty members in the departments of biology, chemistry, and physics were significantly more prone to hire the male applicant, pay him a higher salary, and see him as a potential mentee (Mervis, 2012). Women in the science workforce make an average of $1,613.82 less than their male counterparts and this compounds an existing problem which is that women with Ph.D.’s in life sciences had an average of $4,147 more in student loan debt relative to their male peers (Lee & Won, 2014).
In addition to those more obvious forms of sexism, there are even more subtle forms of sexism that can evade detection (e.g., microaggressions: micro assault, microinvalidation, microinsults, and bias) and, on the other end of the continuum, there are the more overt hostilities including sexual harassment. Gender harassment is reported to be the most common type of sexual harassment; 47% of all women report that they currently experience gender harassment and female people of color are especially vulnerable (Benya, Widnall & Johnson, 2018). In academic science, more than 50% of female faculty and 20-50% of female students report encountering sexual harassment (Benya, Widnall & Johnson, 2018). In that research, female graduate students were 1.64 times more likely to encounter sexual harassment from faculty or staff, 86% of the reported cases included a male perpetrator (Benya, Widnall & Johnson, 2018).
Gender harassment impacts both job and health outcomes for these women including a decrease in job satisfaction, organizational commitment, productivity and performance and an increase in work withdrawal. The same women also report depression, anxiety, and more complaints of headaches, sleep problems, stomach upset, and muscle pain (Benya, Widnall & Johnson, 2018) so the stakes coulnd’t be higher.
The persistence of the problem suggests that legal requirements don’t offer sufficient protection for women in academics and science. Title IV and Title VII incentivize organizations to create policies and training about sexual harassment that reflect a focus on avoiding liability rather than on prevention of harassment. Improvements in the equity of hiring, evaluation, and promotion practices are a key institutional step.
See "Female Leaders in Science," next page.