Study Finds ‘Double Jeopardy’ for Women of Color in STEM Fields

new study by the UC Hastings College of the Law has identified what they are calling double jeopardy discrimination for women of color in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields (also known as STEM fields).

The study is unique in that it attempts to combine experiments by social scientists with actual workplace experience. For instance, in a well known social science experiment, a double-blind randomized study found that, “both male and female faculty rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the female with identical application materials.”

The UC Hasting study differs in that it actually consulted women already working in the field to see where they felt the most pressure. The results highlight how stereotypes and gender bias permeate these scientist’s lives. Although 100% of respondents reported encountering bias, what sort of bias they suffered depended on their ethnicity.

For instance, nearly three-quarters of women felt the need to constantly re-prove their competence in the field. However, this prove-it-again issue affected black women disproportionately (76.9% black women reported experiencing this compared to 64.5% for Asian Americans, 63.6% for Latinas and 62.7% for white women).

Other interracial stereotypes, like Asians being ‘good at science’ were pointed out to have helped students but not colleagues. And Asian American women reported that they faced increase pressure to act feminine in the workplace with 40% saying they felt pressured into traditional gender roles. This compares notably to the lack of this expectation for black women, where only 8% responded they felt this increased pressure.

Another example of disparities within women of color shows the ‘fiery’ and ‘hot-tempered’ stereotype follows Latina scientists around, with 60% reporting backlash for expressing anger. Among other groups, 54.4% of Asians felt backlash, 49.7% of white women and interestingly enough, only 47.8% of black women, showing colleagues felt black women showing assertive behavior was more normative.

When it comes to motherhood, all women ran into similar difficulties within STEM fields. Women also reported being pitted against other women, and feeling as though ‘tokenism’ was an issue during meetings.

However, whether these issues were attributed to race or gender depended on the opinion of the respondent. “I think it depends on the context.” a Latina anatomist told the researchers, “I sometimes have felt the ethnic bias versus the gender bias, but I think overall it’s mostly…gender bias.”

Yet this opinion seems to be purely situational.“I obviously stood out and I felt like I stood out first because of my race and then because I was a woman,” responded one black scientist. “I’m the only African-American [in my department], but then in terms of my gender, there’s a ton of women here. Maybe that’s why.”

Yet for others it was more ambiguous; another woman was quoted as saying “You don’t know if you’re working twice as hard because you’re a woman or if you’re working twice as hard because you’re African American.”

The conclusions of the report encourage administrative workers to take a clear and unbiased approach to how they run their labs or schools. UC Hastings recommending looking at duties around the workplace, especially focusing on ‘female oriented’ duties like housework, cleaning, party planning or ordering. If female employees are asked to contribute in these sectors more than their male colleagues, that work ought to be shifted around or moved to an administrative role. It also encourages employers to take out anonymous climate surveys of their work spaces, looking into inter-office bullying, self promotion and training opportunities for employees.

Regardless, the report notes, the current climate is demoralizing for women who work in STEM fields. As an Asian-American geologist put it, “[Y]ou can try to ignore it just to keep your sanity and move on, but the biases that are there are prevalent. And closing your eyes to them will not make them disappear.”

73 comments

Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

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Mark Bill
Past Member 3 years ago

Worried with getting close to essay producing output deadlines?
Awesome work out guys which you are sharing with us, great efforts you have shown there.

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froudji thommes
froudji thommes3 years ago

Sad but sadly not surprising

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Janet B.
Janet B3 years ago

Thanks

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Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson3 years ago

Bad news.

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Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Disparity abounds throughout the world, have you looked at the bigger picture lately?

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Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago

Thank you.

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laura Frey
laura Frey3 years ago

Thanks for the share

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