Study: Half Of Black And Latina Women Scientists Mistaken For Janitors Or Secretaries

According to a study summarized by the Harvard Business Review and reported by Vox, almost half the black and Latina women working in STEM (science, technology engineering and math) careers have been mistaken for janitorial or administrative staff in the workplace.

This, in 2015, is disgusting, but somehow unsurprising. We talk a lot of game about how far we’ve come with regards to diversity, but diversity isn’t just hiring to fill quotas. You have to keep the people you hire, Looking at the results of the research,it’s easy to see why they are also leaving the fields in droves.

After interviewing 60 scientists and surveying 557 others, the reasearchers confirmed that there are 4 major patterns to the bias women face in the workplace:

  1. Having to prove their competence over and over again
  2. Walking a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent and too masculine to be likable
  3. Having their commitment to their work and their competence questioned after they start families
  4. Navigating the tense relationships between women that result from the gender bias they all face.

These micro-aggressions calcify into resentment and anger, and create an uncomfortable work environment for these women. If you were being mistaken for custodial staff every single day, would you want to come into work anymore? I think not.

The key takeaway from this study is basic common sense — if you want to keep women in the STEM jobs, listen to their needs. When they tell you that they’re leaving because they’re sick of being treated like lepers after they have children and tired of telling countless people that they are not the receptionist, don’t just note it in their exit interview and move on. Try and exact some change.


Image via Shutterstock.