Raja Shah, a 4th year MBiochem student, undertook a 6 week project over the summer to analyse gender bias in teaching materials. The aim was to understand if there were particular modules/degree programs/years of study where students were exposed to an unrepresentative gender ratio.
Raja examined the gender of both academics and demonstrators teaching on modules across all years. There was inevitably module-to-module variation, but broadly the gender ratios of teaching on modules across all years reflected the overall gender ratio of teaching staff in the School of Biology. There were two 2nd year modules where no females taught on the module, but there was a high % of female demonstrators on those modules, and the students taking those modules would have been taught by females in other modules on their degree programs. There was more variation at 4th year where modules are typically only taught by 1-2 people.
In addition, Raja investigated the reading lists recommended for each module, which showed there was a strong male bias across all years. It was concerning that the recommended biochemistry and molecular biology texbooks (which are standard and common textbooks) had 100% male authorship. We felt it important to flag this to the main publishers of science textbooks, and their response said it was something they were looking into themselves as they realised it was a concern.
A summary of the report can be found here.
We thank Raja for his efforts on this project, and his supervisors Jacqueline Nairn, Sascha Hooker and Tracey Gloster. In addition we would like to thank the Wellcome Trust ISSF and the BE&D committee for funding.