A new study published in the journal Science continues to support the idea gender inequality exists in academia.

According to researchers from the University of Illinois and Princeton University, women are underrepresented in academic fields, such as the sciences, the humanities, social sciences, and math, because of stereotypes. Namely, the idea is that women’s intellectual abilities are inferior to those of men. Cue the eye rolling.

The study surveyed more than 1,800 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members across 30 academic disciplines, asking them the qualities required for success in their fields. When it came to the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), as well as the humanities and social sciences, women were underrepresented because of the premium practitioners put on brilliance.

"We're not saying brilliance — or valuing brilliance — is a bad thing. And we're not saying women are not brilliant or that being brilliant isn't helpful to one's academic career. Our data don't address that," Andrei Cimpian, lead study author and psychology professor at Illinois, explained in a press release. "What they suggest is that conveying to your students a belief that brilliance is required for success may have a differential effect on males and females that are looking to pursue careers in your field."

Cimpian’s explanation held up after he and his team tested for three additional hypotheses regarding female underrepresentation: one, women avoid working long hours; two, it’s harder for women to break into these highly selective fields; and three, men simply outnumber women “in fields that require analytical, systematical reasoning.” Neither of these was able to predict women’s representation in academia as well as brilliance.

But, just because Cimpian's study didn't address the idea "women aren't brilliant" or "being brilliant isn't helpful" doesn't mean it's not a thing. Because if it were true no one is saying or making these assumptions, there would be more women in academia. Cimpian himself said there’s no convincing evidence men and women differ intellectually in ways that would be relevant to their success working in science — it’s mainly the perceived or presumed differences between women and men.

The idea women are “inferior” to men started somewhere, so where should we be looking in order to come up with the solution? One study published in the journal Life Science Education suggested the classroom.

"Introductory biology classes are the first opportunities for many students to interact with professionals and peers in their intended fields," said Sarah Eddy, a study co-author. "If questions get squandered, or silenced, confidence levels could fall. And the newfound equity among the sexes could seep back toward a tilted playing field." Eddy suggested professors start to randomize their class roster so students can answer more freely, thus their confidence levels can rise.

Professors doing what they can to eradict this idea in the classroom is certainly a start, but it barely scrapes the surface. Women, in and out of academia, continue to struggle for equality when it comes to their work, finances, health, and art.

Source: Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic discipline. Science. 2014.