Scientists explain the underrepresentation of women in physics compared to biology in four national contexts

journal cover

Women are consistently underrepresented in physics when compared to biology. Yet how scientists themselves explain the causes of this underrepresentation is understudied outside the US context. In this research, we ask the following question: How do scientists in different national/regional contexts explain why there are fewer women in physics than biology? Using original survey data collected among academic biologists and physicists in the US (N = 1777), Italy (N = 1257), France (N = 648), and Taiwan (N = 780), we examine how scientists' social identities, social locations, and country context shape essentialist, individualist, and structural explanations of gender inequality. Findings indicate that scientists across national contexts attribute the unequal gender distribution in physics and biology to women's individual choices. Explanations for the gender distribution also vary by social identities and social locations (gender, discipline, and seniority) in country-specific ways. Scientists and advocates ought to engage conversations that explicitly confront scientists' assumptions about individual choices in global science.