Choice or Discrimination? Another Study on Women in the Academy

From Inside Higher Ed, more on women in academia.

With much fanfare, the National Academies on Monday released a report suggesting that “unintentional” biases and institutional policies were the main reasons for a continued scarcity of women on science and engineering faculties. After the report was issued, universities released the typical statements — expressing concern about bias and pledging to eliminate it.

Unpublished data, however, suggest that most professors don’t agree that discrimination — intentional or otherwise — is the main reason that men hold so many more positions than do women in the sciences. Professors overwhelmingly think it’s a matter of men and women having different interests.

The data come from a national survey of 1,500 professors at all kinds of institutions in the United States. Two sociologists — Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University — conducted the survey on a range of social and political issues. While they have not yet finished their analysis, they agreed to release the data on women and science because of the interest generated by the National Academies’ study…

Among professors, 1 percent cited differing ability levels, 24 percent saw discrimination, and 75 percent said that the issue was one of different interests. When broken down by gender, far more women (33 percent) than men (17 percent) in academe see discrimination as the main factor. By discipline, sociologists and English professors were much more likely to blame discrimination than were scientists. In terms of age, the responses were largely consistent, although professors over 65 are less likely to see discrimination as the main cause.