Salaries prove sexism in science, says expert

Hiring decisions prove women are on the back foot in science jobs, says a scientist who has written a book on sexism in the profession.

A senior lecturer in chemical and physical sciences is challenging her colleagues to re-think their approach to recruiting. Source: Q+A

Dr Nicola Gaston, a senior lecturer in chemical and physical sciences at Victoria University, has written 'Why Science is Sexist' in which she challenges her colleagues to re-think their attitudes in the way they deal with each other and how they study science.

Ms Gaston told TVNZ's Q+A this morning that the sexism she sees in science is structural.

"I see that you have a predominance or a majority of men across most career levels in science and across all disciplines at senior career levels," she said.

"And the mere existence of that disproportionate representation, if it is only attributable to gender, that is evidence of sexism."

Ms Gaston says studies on hiring decisions in science prove women are on the back foot.

"There's a 12 per cent difference in the salary, so a 12 per cent advantage simply based on there being a male name at the top of the CV."

Then the sexism, the bias depending on the name at the top of the CV, goes away. - Dr Nicola Gaston

She says employers can be encouraged to drop their bias based on an applicant having a male name by looking at their criteria and getting people to commit to that before they make the decision.

Colleagues of Dr Gaston agreed there's a problem and told Q+A they're doing their best to help.

"For me it's mostly important to give women a voice during lectures or tutorials or workshops," said senior lecturer Dr Matthias Lein.

"Quite often it's the men who speak first and it's on me to direct the conversation towards the women to make sure their opinions and viewpoints are heard as well."