Gender bias exists in every aspect of the world—from the workplace to the political arena. The gender gap affects children’s education, the size of the paycheck one brings home, and it’s the reason why women still lag behind men in certain careers, especially STEM.
“When we talk about the underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, we’re dealing with a global phenomenon. Global science and academia are the new frontiers for women,” says Kathrin Zippel, who is a professor of sociology at Northeastern University. Zippel has dedicated her own research to examining gender inequality in academic institutions and exploring ways to mitigate it.
All too often, she says, cultural or social stereotypes about who can be a serious scientist lock woman out of collaborative research projects that are necessary for scientific discovery. A UNESCO report shows that women comprise less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, and as technology makes it easier to talk to each other across continents, the field of science is becoming more and more global. International collaboration among scientists is on the rise. However, on the other hand, Zippel has found that as international collaboration among scientists becomes the norm, it provides both challenges and opportunities for women.
For example, Zippel says, the United States is perceived “as the gold standard in science” around the world. This provides an opportunity for women from the U.S. to collaborate with their international counterparts because their status as a scientist from the U.S. However, if you are a scientist from another country, you would have the country’s code at the end of their web address instead of the famed “.edu” that comes with an affiliation with an American institution. And to top it off women scientists find themselves twice marginalized: as women and as non-U.S. scientists.
“The difference, though subtle, sets a tone for scientific research,” Zippel says. As international collaboration quickly becomes essential for research, how are women to overcome such a bias, that is ingrained in the system? For Zippel the answer is- more collaboration. More collaboration and collective efforts will certainly bring a change.