“Biology Appeals to Women. Women Do Not like Math” – Stereotypes and Implicit Gendering of Scientific Cultures in Chemistry and Geology

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Susanne KINK, University of Graz, Austria
The differentiation of science in numerous disciplines or research areas leads not only to changes in the scientific landscape and therefore to a rejection of Snow’s thesis (1959) of the Two Cultures, but has an impact on the research of gender in scientific cultures as well. On the basis of qualitative interviews with scientists at Austrian Universities the paper points out the heterogeneous epistemic and social practices in chemistry and geology and especially highlights aspects of gender. But how does one go about analyzing academic gender norms when measures of gender equality politics have been introduced at universities that have affected the way scientists talk about gender and their field? Why is it that, even though informants claim gender neutrality in their field, men and women are still unequally represented in natural sciences? With the help of a comparison between professional descriptions of the field and the way scientists talk about gender the paper is able to show that social perceptions of gender are implicitly incorporated in scientific cultures. It illustrates furthermore the different styles of how social ideas of gender are embedded in scientific cultures. For example in theoretical chemistry among other things it is the gift for math which is denied to women, in classical geology the important strength for the geological fieldwork or in organic chemistry it is biology which apparently helps women to enter the field. Even the analysis elaborates on the one hand the difference of stereotypes and gender norms which are enrolled in the epistemic and social practices of the chemical and geological fields; it shows on the other hand that all fields implicitly are marked as male. This still consisting masculine gendering of the scientific cultures contributes to the persistence of women’s discrimination and gender inequality across all career patterns in natural sciences.