But You Don’t Look Like A Scientist!: Women Scientists with Feminine Appearance are Deemed Less Likely to be Scientists
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Two studies examined whether subtle variations in feminine appearance erroneously convey a woman’s likelihood of being a scientist. Eighty photos (half women) of tenured/tenure-track science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) faculty at elite research universities were selected from the Internet. Participants, naïve to the targets’ occupations, rated the photos on femininity and likelihood of being a scientist and an early childhood educator. Linear mixed model analysis treated both participants and stimuli as random factors, enabling generalization to other samples of participants and other samples of stimuli. Feminine appearance affected career judgments for female scientists (with increasing femininity decreasing the perceived likelihood of being a scientist and increasing the perceived likelihood of being an early childhood educator), but had no effect on judgments of male scientists. Study 2 replicated these findings with several key procedural modifications: the presentation of the stimuli was manipulated to either be blocked by gender or completely randomized, questions pertaining to the stimuli’s appearance were removed, and a third career judgment likelihood rating was added to avoid tradeoffs between scientist and early childhood educator. In both studies, results suggest that for women pursuing STEM, feminine appearance may erroneously signal that they are not well suited for science.