Professor C. Bodin, a female scientist figurine released by Lego in 2013.

Credit: Maia Weinstock/Flickr/Creative Commons

New paper asserting that sexism in science is over stirs the pot

There is no sexism in U.S. academic science, argue researchers well versed on the controversial topic in a new paper and an op-ed yesterday in The New York Times. That’s a bunch of BS, say bloggers and others who follow the issue.

The paper, by psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University and economists Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas and Shulamit Kahn of Boston University, says the chronic underrepresentation of women in math-intensive fields is not due to discrimination, but rather their own employment preferences. The women working in those fields, they add, “have equivalent access to tenure-track academic jobs … persist and are remunerated at comparable rates.”

In their op-ed, Williams and Ceci seem to be trying to end the long-running debate. “Our country desperately needs more talented people in these fields. … But the unwelcoming image of the sexist academy isn’t helping,” they write.

Not surprisingly, many find that argument seriously flawed. Science bloggers Emily Willingham and PZ Myers, for example, say it is ludicrous to blame women for choosing to avoid environments in which they are not welcome. They also say that some of the data in the paper about pay, publications, and other metrics of success fail to support the argument of a level playing field in academia. “Academic science is sexist: We do have a problem here,” Willingham asserts.