Gender bias persists

“Whenever I give a talk that mentions past findings of implicit gender bias in hiring, inevitably a scientist will say, ‘That can’t happen in our labs because we are trained to be objective,’ ” said Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., the Frederick Phineas Rose Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor.

She tested that belief among colleagues at several research-intensive institutions who received the same application—ostensibly from an undergraduate applying for a job as lab manager—which was randomly assigned a male or female name. Scientists of either sex were more likely to hire the man than the woman, more willing to mentor him, and willing to pay him $4,000 more. Handelsman published her findings on Sept. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Regarding her colleagues’ insistence that gender bias couldn’t happen in their labs, said Handelsman, “I had hoped that they were right.”