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The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law recently conducted a study of 557 women across all races on whether or not they’ve experienced gender bias. 93 percent of White women said they had, while 100 percent of the women of color that volunteered that they absolutely did. The study was based on female scientists working in the field of STEM research.

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In the second stage of the research project titled “Double Jeopardy?,” 60 non-White (Black, Asian, Latina and one Native American) women also participated in more in-depth conversations with Professor Joan C. Williams. As an expert on gender studies for 25 years, Williams felt compelled to learn more about the prejudice these women have combated for simply being female, of color, and as scientists. As she told,If you ask people about gender in our society…what you get is information about white women.” She was also seeking to confront sexism in the science workplace.

A lot of the information Williams has disclosed is bleak. But it’s important that we’re all fully aware of the unfair circumstances these women have gone through. In the report, it was included that in some past situations, former female scientists endured so much emotionally, they had either quit their jobs or demanded to be relocated. Below is a list, courtesy of Mashable, of what Williams discovered during her 1-on-1’s:

  • Black and Latina women said they were regularly mistaken for janitors.
  • Asian-American women felt more pressure to act traditionally feminine.
  • Black women controlled emotion to avoid an “angry black female” stereotype.
  • Latina women reported being labeled as “crazy” when they expressed emotion.
  • Asian-American women faced more push back from peers if they acted assertively.

We’ve seen or heard of these stereotypes and pressures before, but it was still a bit disheartening to read. These are the truths from real working women in science and they have studied damn hard to be in those labs. Their contributions matter just as much as any White male or female scientist. Regarding Black women, Williams particularly noted, “You just see a very different emotional tone than you did among the other three groups…a sense of bleak isolation. And the black women reported experiences where they were treated with such profound disrespect.”

The official report also exposed the handful of contradictions that their White counterparts unleashed towards their non-White co-workers. While Native Americans and Asians were expected to be docile, only to be later unfairly labeled as meek, Black and Latina women were given the too angry sticker and accused of behaving at times “too masculine.”

The purpose of Williams’ report wasn’t to make women of color in science feel like there’s no hope, but to encourage and push the scientific workplace to better address these matters of prejudice and sexism. “This is not women’s problem. If you want to interrupt the bias, you actually have to redesign the business system.”


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