Study uncovers gender bias among undergraduate women, even as they outnumber men

Gender diversity in the publishing and authorship of medical journals is vital to get an equal balance of perspectives on important scientific topics. But even as women outnumber men as graduates, gender bias is still a rampant issue inhibiting the potential for meliorating discussion and societal cohesion.

The findings, released in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, highlights how women not only outnumber men in science courses but are also more likely to complete their undergraduate studies compared to men. Researchers note, however, even a surge of undergraduate women were to flock to science majors and outnumber men, considerable gender-related stereotypes may still emerge.

“This is problematic because undergraduate women may not be able to escape gender-ability stereotypes even when they are outperforming men, which has important implications for 1) the recognition of women’s achievements among their peers in undergraduate education and 2) retention of women in STEM disciplines and careers,” the findings state.

For the study, an estimated 1,000 students were given surveys by their instructors to gather more information on how peers perceive one another.

“The results of this study demonstrate that gender bias persists in undergraduate STEM classrooms that incorporate student-to-student interactions even when women outperform men, and even in areas where women now outnumber men (life sciences),” according to the co-authors.

“Although we did not find evidence of gender bias specifically affecting women’s performance in their courses, others have found a relationship between gender and performance during group work activities in STEM courses.”

“These results also support prior research that shows that women are less likely than men to engage in gender bias and that gender bias is less prevalent in disciplines in which women have similar or greater representation than men compared to those in which they are underrepresented,” the findings also add. “Yet, importantly, gender bias still exists among women themselves and in disciplines in which women are equally represented.”

Given the findings, women of color may experience further bias and discrimination, as could Asian women as well.

“We did not have a large enough sample of women of color to statistically identify intersectional effects and did not have information about sexual orientation about participants,” the co-authors stated in their findings. “Thus, our results are not representative of all women’s and other gender-minorities’ experiences but shed some light on the continuation of bias towards all women, regardless of their academic performance.”

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