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Stereotypes, Discrimination and the Gender Gap in Science


  • Breda, Thomas
  • Ly, Son Thierry


We investigate the link between subject-related gender stereotypes and gender discrimination, and its consequences for the gender gap in science. Stereotypes and social norms influence girls' academic self-concept and push girls to choose humanities rather than science. Do recruiters reinforce this strong selection by discriminating more against girls in more male-connoted subjects? Taking the entrance exam of a French higher education institution (the Ecole Normale Supérieure) as a natural experiment, we show the opposite: discrimination works in favor of females in more male-connoted subjects (e.g. math, philosophy) and in favor of males in more female-connoted subjects (e.g. literature, biology), inducing a rebalancing of gender ratios between students recruited for research careers in science and humanities majors. We identify discrimination from systematic differences in students' scores between oral tests (not gender blind) and anonymous written tests (gender blind). By making comparisons of these oral/written score differences across subjects for a given student, we are able to control both for students’ abilities in each subject and their overall ability at oral exams. Selection issues, external validity and the mechanisms driving this discrimination running against stereotypes are also discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Breda, Thomas & Ly, Son Thierry, 2013. "Stereotypes, Discrimination and the Gender Gap in Science," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1303, CEPREMAP.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpm:docweb:1303

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    More about this item


    discrimination; gender stereotypes; natural experiment; sex and science;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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