The CEC-WYS project partners developed a manual for researchers to help recognise how gender bias occurs in research, and to check for gender bias in their research proposals, thereby improving the quality of the research project. Here below is an an extract from the manual to introduce the ways science can be gender biased. To read more about the pratcical ways to identify and reduce bias in research, please download the manual by clicking on the pdf icons at the bottom of the page.
1. Firstly, in Western culture the leading norms of scientific behaviour and scientific method such as objectivity, unemotionality, disinterestedness, impartiality and autonomy are viewed as the norms of masculinity, in contrast to the norm of femininity. Gender bias in this sense permeates the very ideals of reason and rationality defined by exclusions of the “feminine”(4). Consequently, the scientific enterprise itself became interconnected with the character traits traditionally seen as typically male.
2. The second sense, in which science is understood as masculine, is connected with the fact that science has been controlled and dominated by men.
3. The third way is linked with the tendency of modern sciences to render women invisible in knowledge-making and marginalized in research. Examples of research based on male situations or studying only male subjects can often be found. In such research women’s concerns and experiences are simply invisible. An example of this is psychological and medical research, which presents, as universally valid for men and women, conclusions acquired from investigation of only male subjects (5).
4. Finally, science can also be seen as being gender biased in terms of its uneven portrayal of men and women, essentially by portraying women mainly negatively. Generally speaking, gender bias can be understood as “the often unintentional and implicit differentiation between men and women situating one gender in a hierarchical position to the other, as a result of stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity steering the assessment and selection process or the gendered structure of the scientific system”. It is worth stressing that “such hidden influences and biases are particularly insidious in science because the cultural heritage of the practitioners is so uniform as to make these influences very difficult to detect and unlikely to be brought to light or counterbalanced by the work of other scientist with different attitudes. Instead, the biases themselves become part of a stifling science-culture…” (6).
(4 ) See Code in Encyclopedia, p. 20. See Code in Encyclopedia, p. 20.
(5) See Janet A. Kournay, A New program for Philosophy of Science, in Many Voices, In: Janet A. Kournay, (ed.), Philosophy in a Feminist Voice. Critiques and Reconstructions, Prince-ton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998, pp. 231-261.
(6) See Gender and Excellence in the Making. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, Brussels, 2004, p. 13.
source: "Why Gendered Science Matters - How to Include the Gender Dimension into Research projects", Livia Bizikova, Tatiana Sedova, Mariana Szapuova 2007 .
To download the whole manual free of charge, and a case study examining a research proposal in detail please click on the pdf icons below.