Discrimination against women by the sciences

Other Names:
Sexist science
Gender bias in scientific disciplines
Andro-centric distortion of science
Active prejudice towards women by science

Once gender is defined as an analytic category within which humans think about and organize their social activity, rather than as a natural consequence of sex difference, it becomes apparent the extent to which gender meanings have suffused human belief systems and institutions. The fact that women have been almost completely excluded from science raises the question as to whether the predominance of men in the sciences has led to bias in the choice and definition of problems. And if bias enters into the selection of problems, bias may enter into the actual design and interpretation of experiments. To the extent that traditional science is influenced by extra-logical considerations such as personal beliefs and desires, if science is primarily undertaken by men these will bias the development of any discipline.


The 19th century naturalist and children's writer Beatrix Potter prepared a scientific paper on fungi for the Linnean Society. It was presented on her behalf by another because at the time only members could present papers and women could not be members. Her thesis was rejected. Subsequent findings have confirmed her thesis and found the opinions which rejected it incorrect. The present committee of the Linnean Society is in some embarrassment over this and is reportedly considering a public apology.


Science is inextricably connected with specific masculine (and perhaps uniquely Western and bourgeois) needs and desires. Objectivity vs subjectivity, the scientist as knowing subject vs the object of his inquiry, reason vs the emotions, mind vs body; in each case the former has been associated with masculinity and the latter with femininity. In each case it has been claimed that human progress requires the former to dominate the latter. If science were regarded as a totally social activity it would be possible to begin to understand the myriad ways in which it too is structured by expressions of gender.

Counter Claim:

Despite the enormous scope of the claims made, the actual evidence offered for andro-centric distortion of science is extremely limited. Deviations from the ideal of objectivity occur because science is done by human beings. The self-correcting character of the scientific method ensures that such deviations will eventually be seen as such. There are three fundamental errors in the feminist attack on science: confusion of something with its origin and rejection of it on that basis; the failure to take seriously the fact that so-called masculine science works; and an unwillingness to give any concrete account of what a feminist science would look like.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Date of last update
20.12.2017 – 18:12 CET