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Discrimination without Borders

© Jen Sorensen

It is true. After some early success in recruiting women into the field of computer science, the number of women receiving CS degrees has been going down dramatically since then — despite the fact that there is strong demand for computer workers regardless of sex.

The study mentioned in the first panel of this comic is particularly stunning. Even highly educated scientists showed blatant discrimination against female students when considering them for a job. Given applications that were identical except for the name of the student, the applicants with a male name were evaluated as being more competent, more likely to be hired, and deserving of a higher salary. Even more ironic is that this was true whether the evaluating scientist was male or female.

Sexism runs very deep. But I’m not sure what can be done about it. You would think that intelligent and well educated scientists would be less likely to be sexist than the general population, but the sexism remains. And unlike other discrimination — such as against blacks or gays — it isn’t based on fear. Attitudes about gays are improving because the general population is getting used to seeing gays as normal, productive members of society (as opposed to scary deviants). But everyone sees women in these roles, and yet the sexism remains.

As Jen Sorensen — the creator of the above comic — notes:

Even I still catch myself thinking of a stereotypical doctor as a guy with a stethoscope, despite the fact that I’ve had female doctors for my entire adult life. It’s harder to get rid of these biases than we think.



  1. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Excellent piece IK. I’m not sure why either, but one theory I have might be how women are still portrayed in the media and particularly advertising. I think the stereotypes remain because they are constantly re-inforced through a non-stop blitz of media portraying women as objects. Sexualism is not just an idea its also an instinct and that appeal drives the money making machines of fashion, entertainment and media. Look at news networks and weather reports. Oh my goodness it’s like they hold a beauty pagent to pick a weather girl. While thats good for ratings perhaps it doesn’t do anything to promote women as capable CS candidates.
    I do think however that if a capable talent presents itself that many can ignore their own human sexuality and make a choice based on substance over appearance, it just doesn’t happen often enough.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  2. Steve wrote:

    I learned in an undergrad pol-sci course about the same type of job application studies, where the applications were identical but for the names; some were White names like John or Dave, others Black names like Shaquille or Lebron.

    The results were very similar.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  3. just me wrote:

    And this is the kind of thinking that drives the narrative of the anti-Obama crowd.
    If you’re not a white male, you must do everything twice as well just to be “good”.
    My feeling is that the end of the reign of the white anglo male is drawing near, they know it & they are fighting it.
    Fortunately for the rest of us, they are now in the minority.
    In addition, we (meaning non-WASP types) are no longer uneducated & easily frightened.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  4. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Just me- Really? IMO It’s exactly your type of rhetoric that creates a divide. I am what you call a WASP and when segregation still existed I had black friends and white friends and when I had a party they all came together. I work in the “blue collar” realm and I’ve got to tell you there are some outstanding black and white leaders out there, there are also some that truly suck. Today as never before it matters less and less what color your skin is or what god you pray to in my blue collar world, it all comes down to how well you perform, how much effort you put out and what the results are. In this country education is available to anyone who wants it AND is willing to put the effort in to achieving it. I think what the article was talking about is the peoples hidden gender stereo types embedded in their minds. If race was as big a problem as you suggest why di the country pick a black president over a white female? Following your thought process they should have picked the white female before the black male. IMO, I think your wrong.

    Friday, October 5, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink