All Black Women Interviewed for STEM Study Experienced Gender Bias

All Black Women Interviewed for STEM Study Experienced Gender Bias

Participants said they had to prove themselves more than their colleagues and were forced to compete with other women.

Published January 29, 2015

According to a new University of California Hastings study, women of color who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields face "a double jeopardy" in the workplace.

After surveying 557 women (both white women and women of color) and interviewing 60 women of color, researchers found that 100 percent of the women of color said they have encountered gender bias, compared to 93 percent of white women. However, in addition to gender bias, women of color also reported experiencing racial and ethnic stereotypes, the study's lead researcher, professor Joan Williams, told Fortune magazine.

Williams, who has been researching gender for more than 20 years, reportedly began adding a racial component to her studies after receiving several requests.  

“If you study gender, it’s typically about white women,” she told Fortune. “If you study race, it’s typically about men of color. Women of color get lost in the shuffle.”

Some of the findings from "Double Jeopardy?: Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science" include:

Black women (76.9 percent) were more likely than other women to report having to provide more evidence of competence than others to prove themselves to colleagues (Latinas: 64.5 percent; Asian-Americans: 63.6 percent; white women: 62.7 percent). 

Latinas (35.5 percent) were far more likely to report finding it difficult to get administrative support personnel to support them. In interviews, Black women also reported many instances of conflict with administrative staff.

Asian-American scientists were more likely than other women to report workplace pressures to fulfill traditionally feminine roles — and push back if they didn’t.

Latinas who behave assertively risk being seen as “angry” or “emotional” — and they shoulder large loads of office housework for both colleagues and students.

Black women are allowed more leeway than other groups of women to behave in dominant ways — so long as they aren’t seen as “angry Black women.”

About one-third of both Black women and Asian-Americans reported tokenism — that women in their environments were forced to compete with each other for the one “woman’s spot” — as compared with roughly one-fifth of Latinas and white women. 

Latinas and Black women also often reported being mistaken for janitors — something Williams has never heard in her interviews with white women. 

"Women leave these jobs because they are incredibly unpleasant," Williams said. "It’s like a death by a thousand cuts."

As Mashable points out, the 2013 United States Census Bureau shows that men were hired at twice the rate of equally qualified women. Reports on the racial demographic of the STEM workforce — 6 percent Black; 7 percent Hispanic; 41 percent Asian-American — do not specify the gender breakdown of those numbers.

Over the past year, tech giants like Google and Intel have announced major diversity initiatives to improve their dismal numbers as seen in their gradually-released diversity reports.

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(Photo: JGI/Daniel Grill/Blend Images/Corbis)

Written by Patrice Peck

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