For an abbreviated progression of women’s representation in psychological science over the last century, consider the experiences of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and Tessa Charlesworth.

Pioneering psychological scientist Gilbreth coauthored several books with her husband and business partner, Frank, until his death in 1924. The couple had 12 children, so it’s possible that between raising them and pursuing her career as an industrial psychologist, inventor, college professor, filmmaker, and author of her own books, she didn’t have time to get particularly rankled by the omission of her name from the coauthored books’ credits.

“Publishers believed that including a woman as an author would hurt the books’ credibility. At the time, Gilbreth was among the few practicing industrial psychologists with a doctorate; her husband hadn’t been to college” (Observer, 2017).

More than 90 years later, Charlesworth was in her first year of graduate school at Harvard when, at a meeting at another university, “a male colleague turned to me, the only woman in the room, and essentially said, ‘You’re only here because I invited you.’” 

“I was shocked,” said Charlesworth, now a doctoral student studying attitude and stereotype change, implicit social cognition, and quantitative methods. “These were people who researched attitudes and social biases.” Despite that, in the years since, she has heard explicit expressions of gender bias from researchers in the field.

That chilly feeling

For all their gains, women are confronted by subtle—and not-so-subtle—reminders of gender disparity in the halls of academia every day. 

“A lot of them are really simple—like, does your department have a wall full of every former department chair, and they’re all men?” asked Elizabeth Cole, a professor of women’s studies and psychology at the University of Michigan. “My friends and I call that the ‘stereotype threat wall.’” 

She cautioned that in many ways, both explicit and implicit, “how we do the business of the academy serves to send messages about who’s in and out.” These signals might seem innocuous to some people, but “other people might say, ‘this isn’t for me.’”

Read the full article at APS.