Implicit bias against women in science remains rampant, L’Oréal study finds

24 Sep 2015

A new international study conducted by the L’Oréal Foundation has revealed rather depressing findings, which show that the vast majority of people across the world still believe that women can’t be scientists.

The L’Oréal Foundation study asked 5,032 men and women across a number of European countries, and China, a series of questions, which aimed to discover whether there is still an implicit bias which says that women can’t be scientists.

Based off their findings, this would sadly appear to be the case, with one of the questions finding that on an average across the countries of Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Italy, 67pc of people think women lack the abilities to be a scientist.

Even more startling is that in China, this number rockets up to 93pc of all those surveyed.

When you look at the breakdown of answers to the same question across both men and women, there is a disturbing similarity between the two genders, with more women saying self-confidence and competitiveness were reasons than men.

L'Oreal figures

Screenshot via L’Oréal Foundation

When asked about their opinions, one of the women surveyed said: “They (men) are more scientific and women are more literary, that’s my impression. It’s global, I think that everyone says so, the majority.”

To add insult to injury, 89pc of those surveyed said that women are suited to every career, except for one in the sciences.

When posed questions on major scientific breakthroughs made by scientists, there was also found to be a huge disparity between reality and implicit bias.

L'Oréal figures 2

Screenshot via L’Oréal Foundation

For example, when asked whether the discovery that the composition of stars is 98pc hydrogen and helium was made by a man or a woman, 77pc of respondents felt it was a man who discovered it, when, in fact, it was a woman named Cecilia Payne.

Despite these findings, efforts to bridge the gap and dismiss implicit biases are continuing, most noticeably here in Ireland where just yesterday Silicon Republic announced the line-up for next year’s Inspirefest event, which aims to create greater diversity among the tech and science industries.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Eircom, Fidelity Investments, ESB, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Budding scientist image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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