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Women: Latent bias harms careers

Ed Rybicki's Futures story describes his own helplessness in the face of everyday obstacles (Nature 477, 626; 2011). Although he sees himself as supportive of women scientists, an unintentional, subconscious bias is implied. Such bias can subvert the career path of women — something our community must get to grips with.

The story places women and men in fundamentally different categories: women are well organized and domestically oriented, whereas men are useless in everyday life but come up with theories about the Universe. It is this subconscious categorization that can hurt women as they climb the academic ladder.

Things are better for female scientists now than they were a few decades ago, as overt sexism is slowly dying out. I am hopeful that subconscious bias will follow. Search committees, for instance, could bring these issues out into the open before interviewing candidates for jobs.

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Correspondence to Pieter van Dokkum.

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van Dokkum, P. Women: Latent bias harms careers. Nature 479, 299 (2011).

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