Can Evidence Impact Attitudes? Public Reactions to Evidence of Gender Bias in STEM Fields
Research has revealed that gender biases limit the opportunities for women within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. But just how prevalent are these biases and how are they perceived differently by men and women? This study examined a well-known space for candid sharing of thoughts – the comments sections of online articles – and found that men are much less likely to agree with scientific evidence of gender bias in STEM than women. Researchers analyzed 831 public comments made on three online news articles that reported experimental evidence of gender bias within some areas of scientists. They found that men were more likely to respond negatively to these articles than women.
The authors wrote, “It is critical to understand how people react to evidence of bias in order to implement successful interventions designed to decrease it, particularly given mounting evidence that non-stigmatized group members (i.e., White men) may respond differently than other individuals.”
Our research capitalized on a naturalistic data collection opportunity to investigate responses to experimental evidence of gender bias within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We analyzed 831 written comments made by members of the public in response to three prominent articles reporting on experimental evidence of science faculty members’ gender biases. Utilizing a mixed-method approach (i.e., thematic and quantitative analysis), we identified the nature and frequency of positive and negative responses, and we investigated possible gender and professional differences in what commenters wrote. Although acknowledgment of gender bias was the most prevalent category, a wide range of positive (e.g., calls for social change) and negative (e.g., justifications of gender bias) reactions emerged. Among the subsample of 423 comments for which it was possible to code commenters’ gender, gender differences arose for the majority of categories, such that men were more likely than women to post negative responses and women were more likely than men to post positive responses. Results were unaffected by commenters’ own STEM field affiliation. We discuss implications for the role of clearly demonstrated bias in prejudice recognition and reduction as well as the development of STEM diversity interventions.
Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, Aneta K. Molenda, and Charlotte R. Cramer
Can Evidence Impact Attitudes? Public Reactions to Evidence of Gender Bias in STEM Fields Psychology of Women Quarterly 0361684314565777, first published on January 8, 2015 doi:10.1177/0361684314565777