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Title IX S&E

Research on Discrimination

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Research on Discrimination :: Bias Literacy


Many people do not believe that there is discrimination against women, especially among academics and in the sciences, where professionals think they are objective and smart. "The playing field is level in my field." They have personal explanations for the fact that there are few women or minorities in their field and in faculty or leadership positions. "They don't want to." "Their brains are different."

These personal explanations are often assumptions based in unquestioned traditions. Unless people study social science research on gender and racial difference, they tend to hold the same views they learned as children. Childhood thinking, family cultures, and early schooling take on an inertia. Unless people continuously challenge their thinking and read new information, they think and act the usual ways.

Here is a chapter on discrimination. It affects all of our lives, globally, every day. Here are some basic points -- the language and ideas from social science research.

Bias Literacy: A review of concepts in research on discrimination offers a quick digest of the evidence for discrimination, especially with reference to women in science and engineering.

  • Common terminology
  • Relevant legislation and national policy initiatives
  • Tradition versus bias
  • Conscious versus unconscious discrimination
  • Overt versus covert discrimination
  • Personal versus institutional bias
  • Gender schema theory
  • Accumulative advantage
  • Stereotype threat
  • Implicit bias theory
  • Glass ceiling
  • Mommy track
  • Occupational segregation
  • Statistical profiling
  • "Climate" study
  • The value of diversity in learning
  • National and international measures of discrimination against women and benchmarking efforts
  • Major organizations working for diversity

The paper is a short (25-page) tour for people new to the topic. Many of the concepts are more fully described in the recent national report Beyond Bias and Barriers (2007), which inspired this literacy effort.

Here is a 2-page selected reading list.

Authored by Ruta Sevo and Daryl Chubin, the paper may be copied and distributed with attribution. Please pass it on to others.


Sevo, Ruta & Daryl E. Chubin (2010). Bias literacy: A review of concepts in research on gender discrimination and the U.S. context. In A. Cater-Steel & E. Cater (Eds.), Women in engineering, science and technology: education and career challenges (pp. 21-49). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Ask your library to buy it. Electronic rights are available. Search


More short summaries of research are being prepared by experts for general consumption. Follow this link. You will have to register (free) to see the Literature Overviews.