Wait . . . but that woman doesn’t look like a scientist

Web log: Study found ‘feminine’ looking women thought less likely to be scientists

The ex-Googler who was sacked for sharing an anti-diversity memo with fellow employees may be viewed as having got his just desserts but this doesn’t solve the wider problem that many within the tech industry secretly – or not so secretly – believe: that women are not cut out for a career in technology.

What makes this infuriating for those of us who value empirical evidence is that bad science is being touted as proof of biological differences that magically make men better coders when research shows that neuroscientists can’t actually tell if a brain is male or female and women are quite simply punished for being and looking like women.

For example, a new study on gender stereotypes within STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) shows that the more “feminine” a woman looks, the less likely it is assumed she is a scientist. The study used images of men and women scientists within elite research universities, asking participants to rate the likelihood that they were in fact scientists. The “results suggest that for women pursuing STEM, feminine appearance may erroneously signal that they are not well suited for science”.