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Do you think physics employers have a subconscious bias towards male job applicants?

Facebook poll

By James Dacey

A nifty psychological study reported this week on has found that a set of researchers assessing the employability of early-career scientists subconsciously favoured male students over females. The bias – if it indeed reflects reality – is thought to be a contributing factor towards the underrepresentation of women in physics.

The study, which you can read about here, involved the sending of a fake job application for a graduate-level lab-technician post to tenured scientists in the US. The professional scientists were asked to give feedback on the employability of the applicants, unaware that they were fictional. All applications were identical except for the fact that some were written by the fictional applicant “John” and the others by “Jennifer”.

From the scientists’ feedback John was deemed to be more competent and hireable than the identical female applicant, but the hirers would also have given the male student a higher starting salary. This bias was seen to exist in both male and female physicists and was exhibited by chemists and biologists.

In this week’s Facebook poll we want to know whether you think this bias does indeed exist in the real world.

Do you think physics employers have a subconscious bias towards male job applicants?

Take part by visiting our Facebook page and please feel free to post a comment to explain your response.

In last week’s poll we asked you about the trial of the seven scientists in Italy who were being charged with falsely reassuring the public ahead of the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake that left 308 people dead. We asked whether you think the L’Aquila trial will discourage scientists from being involved in public safety decisions. Since asking this question last Thursday all seven scientists have been sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter – two years longer than even the prosecutors had demanded.

The sentencing on Monday has sent shockwaves through the science community, if you will excuse the pun. Bloggers and tweeters have been speaking out in furious condemnation of the Italian authorities for setting what they believe is an incredibly dangerous precedent of imprisoning scientists for “getting it wrong”. Earlier today the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences issued a statement in support of the Italian geophysicists. “If it becomes a precedent in law, it could lead to a situation in which scientists will be afraid to give expert opinion for fear of prosecution or reprisal,” it states.

It seems that our Facebook followers also agree with this sentiment as 97% of responses were that “yes” the L’Aquila trial will discourage scientists involved in public risk tasks.

Thank you for your responses and we hope to hear from you again in this week’s poll.

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