‘Picture a Scientist’ documentary exposes the racism and misogyny women face in STEM
The original text of this article has been published on Nature.
Ask people to picture a scientist, and what do many imagine? A white man in a white lab coat, sadly.
The film Picture a Scientist shows why. It chronicles, through the stories of three extraordinary female researchers, the gender and racial biases that drive so many people out of science. All the usual suspects are here: systemic racism, institutional bias, sexual harassment. Together, they tell so many aspiring researchers the lie that they do not belong.
The film-makers interweave interviews with startling statistics. Women receive 50% of the bachelor’s degrees in science and technical fields in the United States, yet comprise only 29% of people employed in those fields. The pipeline of people interested in science is full at the start, but it leaks over time because of discrimination and harassment, says Paula Johnson, the president of Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
Implicit bias is pervasive. Men are preferred to women even if they have the same accomplishments. Psychologists have shown this by testing scientists’ responses to fictitious CVs that are identical other than coming from ‘John’ or ‘Jennifer’, or CVs that include, or scrub, mention of the applicant’s status as a member of a minority racial group. Even social scientists who are aware of their own bias do not overcome it, as they admit on camera.
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