back to article Black and Latina boffins regularly mistaken for janitors, study finds

A survey of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers has found that black and Latina boffins are being mistaken for janitors. The study [PDF], conducted by California's Hastings College of Law, found that women in STEM careers continue to face sexism and discrimination, with women of color …

  1. parry.lost

    Political correctness gone mad!

    Well, uh, clearly women just have a natural pre-desposition to look like, um, janitors, and therefore there's nothing wrong with... er... Dang, there's got to be *some* way to spin this into a "feminism-is-dead, things-are-fine-just-the-way-they-are" narrative!

  2. tony72

    Simple solution

    "Latinas encountered persistent assumptions that they were janitorial staff, even if they had on white lab coats"

    No woman wearing six-inch heels and sporting a nice bit of cleavage ever got mistaken for janitorial staff.

    Just sayin'.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone please explain to me why both the womens and mens singles Wimbledon winner both get the same money (£1.88) yet the women only play 3/5ths the number of games ?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Simple - the women are 5/3 more entertaining to watch!

      Thanks, mine is the dirty mac...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ paul C - not if it's Lindsay Davenport or Martina Navratilova.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          @Mine's a Guinness

          You don't know how desperate I am...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Mine's a Guinness

            @ paul - you're only that desperate if you went to a boys boarding school :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Think your figures are a bit outdated, they get millions now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ AC - oops missed the M, in true reg style here you go - millllleeeeeooooonnnnnnsssssss

        1. Captain TickTock


          .. is the correct spelling and capitalisation

          as in this example

    3. Flatpackhamster

      Because of equality. And fairness.

    4. DougS Silver badge


      So you find ONE example where women get a better deal and you're all bent out of shape about it? Go look up how much money the women's World Cup winners get versus the men's - it is about a 20x discrepancy.

      I'm sure you'll say that's because the ratings are much higher for the men's World Cup so there's more money to go around for the men. Go look up the ratings for Wimbledon, I'll bet the women's matches draw more viewers - at least that's true for US Open tennis (I couldn't find figures for Wimbledom in 30 seconds of googling) So really the women ought to get paid more than the men in this case, since they're bringing in more TV viewers.

  4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    On a more serious note, in engineering in particular there is a shortage of women entering the subject to study (e.g. compared to biochemistry, etc), no doubt due to various factors, but that in turn has an impact on the gender bias of typical engineering companies and university staff (who tend to reflect the entry stats some 5-20 years previously).

    Tackling the issues around that at school age would be a good start.

    Or just giving us engineers all much more pay, THEN we would have more uptake :(

    1. Bruce Ordway

      Tackling the issues at school age would be a good start.

      >> school age would be a good start.

      I fear many children are "set" before they arrive at schools though.

      Even so, I'm still in favor of exposing youth to the best examples, mentors & role models as possible.

      Unfortunately I haven't noticed any significant changes to cultural bias's in my location yet.

      I reside in a liberal US city where a significant percentage of the population is well educated.

      Even on my best day I still make numerous, erroneous assumptions about the people I encounter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Paul, I couldn't agree more about engineers being paid more.

      I know of several companies where the engineers that do the actual work and produce well over 70% of the company income get paid about 60% of what the marketing droids get and then those companies wonder why they can't get good engineers.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        60%? Where is it so people can apply there

        60% ? That would be stellar for a public company in the UK. More like 30% and if you get more than said 30% you will be actively discriminated against (so much for the labour code prohibiting salary discrimination).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 60%? Where is it so people can apply there

          60% ? That would be stellar for a public company in the UK.

          It is indeed what was found in my company: London developers are underpaid compared to their colleagues in other countries. Justifications of the management is: salaries are adjusted to the local average in the IT branch.

          Paris was even worse though.

  5. Mike 16 Silver badge

    More Pay?

    Having been through a couple cycles of computer programming being "in" and "out", I assure you that you do not want to be working on a team made mostly of folks who got into the field for the pay. We used to refer to them as "Matchbook Programmers". See also discussions on leaning too heavily of "certificates" when choosing who will implement your Mission Critical projects.

    All this is independent of gender. Most of the useless paper-holders were male, as, of course, were most of the staff in general.

    I am hopeful that efforts to interest young girls in the filed, or STEM generally, will eventually work out. Of course, the first step is to not actuvely discourage them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More Pay?

      you do not want to be working on a team made mostly of folks who got into the field for the pay

      Have an upvote.

      I'd go so far as to say you don't want to be working anywhere that people are only in it for the money, STEM subject or not.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've never in my mind stereotyped latin women as janitors.

    I do have a stereotype in my head most of them looking hot like Salma Hayek.

  7. W. Anderson

    Women in particular are proven better at science and technology than men.

    These study results should not surise anyone, except commenter who ignorangly and sarcastically refers to Wimbleton player equal winnings as some sort of argument against the facts of the study.

    A significant proportion of Americans are always attacking any credible study who shows continual crude and vile racial and gender bias, even in clear situations like those examined.

    One can only hope that the propaganda mantras incessantly spewed on the world like USA being "Greatest Nation on Earth", and "Liberty and Justice for All" can finally b laid to rest as without any merit, and those noted real problems of society addressed in a sensible, determined and serious manner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Women in particular are proven better at science and technology than men.

      "A significant proportion of intelligent Americans are always attacking any allegedly credible study who (?) shows proclaims continual crude and vile racial and gender bias..."

      There, fixed it for you.

  8. Simpson

    This cuts both ways

    In some neighborhoods, I am assumed to be a police officer.

    1. TheProf

      Re: This cuts both ways

      You should quit the Village People.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lavate las manos

    So that isn't a wizard training school next door then

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me
    Paris Hilton

    Sorry, I don't believe this - can these women please re-do this survey and it's findings to prove it.

    Paris - not a janitor but dirrrty

  11. Esme

    Things do change over time, but

    not necessarily the way one would think, or might deem to be desirable. Take secretaries. Once upon a time they were all male. Then, by the time I arrived in the world, the term 'secretary' came along with imnplications of referring to leggy women who were either frighteningly competent (but probably still weren;t being paid fairly for the job) or otherwise were merely a male boss's bit of fluff thinly disguised as a co-worker.

    Then there's, ooh, train drivers, bus drivers, office managers., journalists, engineers (any type), scientists - all the stereotypes of those when I was little were of women in those sorts of jobs being a rare novelty. In some of those jobs, women are now much more common, not so in others. Who knows why? But there's also the hidden jobs, the ones that keep households going, and there is where the double-whammy for women hits - not only do we still tend to be paid less for doing the same as male colleagues, we still tend to be expected to do the heavy lifting where it comes to that which keeps a household going, too. And it isn;t just men being chauvinistic - many women are chauvinistic about it too. It was seeing and realising this all around me that really drove home to me the truth of Dale Spender's stance on feminism when I was young - that men are not the enemy - they are simply a part of the problem, along with women.

    Humans - durned silly, irrational species, eh? :-}

  12. Harry the Bastard

    happened to one of our hr bigwigs a few years ago, usa expat over in uk for a year of cv buffing and headcount/benefit slashing before heading home again

    she turned up after hours in rather casual dress and the security guards decided she was a cleaner

    hr, well, you can imagine h̶o̶w̶ ̶w̶e̶ ̶l̶a̶u̶g̶h̶e̶d̶ the sympathy

  13. John Savard Silver badge

    People should definitely recognize that in today's world, people belonging to minority groups are now able to achieve lofty goals, and have careers requiring good qualifications and so on. Of course, though, it's also still true that a lot of people belonging to minority groups are stuck as janitors and the like as well. So, given the odds, mistakes like that will continue to be made even in the absence of malice - until there is more opportunity and more equality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "'s also still true that a lot of people belonging to minority groups are stuck as janitors..."

      Yeah, and a lot of non-minorities are stuck the same way. Is this bad too, or is it bad only whan it's a minority worker stuck as a janitor?

      If you are going to respond by saying a higher percentage of minorities are janitors, and insinuate that this is due to racisim, then I would ask you to PROVE this insinuation or kindly not indite entire societies for the crime.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "minority groups"

      That's a problem in itself.

      On the whole, when talking about race, the people referred to as "minorities" are not. There may be fewer of them in a specific geographic location, or even in a specific country but they are not actually a "minority". If we could get away from using that word it would a good step forward.

  14. Mage Silver badge

    Heading photo?

    That doesn't look like a Latina or African-American.

    1. Pliny the Whiner

      Re: Heading photo?

      If El Reg was unable to find a stock photo of a black or Latina boffinette, it helps to make the point of the whole story, doesn't it?

      One thing is clear: If I was a scientist and some dick mistook me for a janitor, you can be certain he'd be my next science experiment.

  15. arctic_haze Silver badge

    It's no better in year 3000

    Scruffy was always taken for a janitor even as he owned most of the Planet Express shares

  16. John H Woods

    I remember ...

    ... a brief stint working as an assistant to a brilliant maths professor, whose research was groundbreaking, who could teach as well, and speak about 10 languages. She also had long blonde hair, even longer legs and was quite happy to wear make up.

    In two weeks, I lost count of the number of times people asked her if Professor **** was available, whilst nodding in my direction. Not a single person asked me, the assistant, if the professor was about.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember from my days as a physics student at Edinburgh in the early 90s, there was this oldish bloke in fatigues who used to shuffle round the labs and corridors keeping things looking tidy. I thought he was a pretty ineffective janitor who should work a bit harder. Turned out to be some bloke called Professor Higgs lost in thought about something or other...!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Pretty much describes 95% of professors.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a student at Cambridge in the early 80s, I used to mistake David Wheeler (co-inventor of the subroutine, and also, I think, the interrupt) for a security guard (something about the way he dressed made it look a bit like a uniform).

  18. codejunky Silver badge


    "Latina researchers reported having to overcome "lazy" stereotypes from colleagues and superiors"

    In my opinion good. Humans are lazy, naturally, and we take all sorts of short cuts in perception and judging a book by its cover is one of those lazy things people naturally do. And when things change it takes people longer to adapt to such change and we can only adapt when we encounter change. These people are using their existing assumptions based on experience and now these minorities can challenge that.

    We dont check the colour of the sky every day and every night, we assume it is blue or black (or just grey in the UK). This is why some of us get a nice surprise of a sunrise or sunset that takes our experiences and adds to it.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Well

      It's a long time since I've been to London, but I distinctly remember the night sky there as being orange.

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