White able-bodied heterosexual men working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are uniquely privileged and experience a wide range of advantages at work compared with other groups.
That is the finding of an analysis of survey data from more than 25,000 STEM professionals in the US. It also found that those advantages tend to be most pronounced compared with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) black women, Latin American and Native American women, and people with disabilities.
Previous work has revealed that minority racial and ethnic groups, women, people identifying as LGBTQ, and those with disabilities face systematic disadvantages when working in STEM. But much of this has focused on a single aspect of inequality such as race or gender.
It is also often assumed that white, heterosexual and able-bodied men have an advantage over other groups, but little research has directly tested this idea. To do so, Erin Cech, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, analysed data from the STEM Inclusion Study, which surveyed the US-based membership of 21 STEM professional societies and organizations between 2017 and 2019. The survey included questions regarding demographics as well as work experiences and rewards.
Cech split the respondents into 32 intersecting demographic groups covering gender (men and women), race (Asian, Black, Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander, and white), disability status (with and without disabilities), and LGBTQ status (LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ).
She then examined their experiences of social inclusion, harassment and professional respect as well as their average salary, opportunities for career advancement and intentions to stay in STEM.
LGBTQ black women with disabilities were found to have the most negative outcomes in all but one category. They experienced worse work-related treatment than other groups and were less likely to be planning to remain in STEM careers.
On average, LGBTQ Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander women with disabilities had the lowest salaries. White able-bodied heterosexual men were the most advantaged group in all categories.
Getting white able-bodied heterosexual men onboard to diversity and equity goals as reflexive allies is critical to moving the needle
Further analysis showed that the differences cannot be explained by factors such as education level, work commitment, family responsibilities and STEM subfields. The privileges come simply from being white, male, heterosexual and able-bodied.
Cech told Physics World that she was struck by the range of their privilege. “It’s not just a matter of [them] experiencing more inclusion with colleagues, but those advantages are evident in professional respect, career opportunities, desire to stay in their STEM long-term and even salary,” she says.
Ethnic diversity boosts scientific impact
Cech says that reversing this inequality must be multifaceted, covering areas such as educational structures, support for students and STEM professionals, hiring and promotion practices, and organizational policies.
“Getting white able-bodied heterosexual men onboard to diversity and equity goals as reflexive allies is critical to moving the needle,” she adds. “[Those] who are willing to reflect on, and have open dialogue about, these forms of privilege can go a long way in making structural and cultural change in organizations and STEM professions.”
The post White heterosexual men have systematic advantages in science, finds study appeared first on Physics World.
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