Prove-it-again bias: proving oneself repeatedly to gain the same recognition and respect as one's peers
Tightrope bias: operating within a narrow range of behavior that is considered acceptable, i.e. neither "too feminine" nor "too masculine"
Maternal wall bias: having children negatively impacts colleagues' perceptions of women's workplace competency and/or commitment
A higher percentage of women engineers than men reported experiencing these types of bias. Specifically regarding the maternal wall bias, 80% of men said that having children did not affect colleagues' perception of their workplace performance whereas only 55% of women reported similarly. Engineers of color reported higher instances of prove-it-again and tightrope bias than white counterparts. Overall, these data and the overwhelming number of respondent comments (897 total) demonstrate the engineering field's intense interest in implicit bias, which remains a controversial topic.
To read the executive summary, full report, and other research initiatives from SWE (including interactive webinars and tools for address gender and racial bias in the workplace), see the links below:
Executive SummaryFull ReportSWE Research + interactive webinars and toolsOctober 2016
At many scientific conferences, there are fewer female speakers than male speakers. To drive this point home, a website called BiasWatchNeuro reports the ratio of female to male speakers at more than 60 neuroscience conferences in comparison to the proportion of women in the field at large. Recently, the New York Times featured BWN and aggregated gender ratio data from the project to shed light on this disparity. The good news: roughly half of the conferences listed here have speaker gender ratios that match or surpass the field-wide gender ratio. (Note that the field-wide gender ratio often skews toward men.) The bad news: half of the conferences still fall far short of their fields’ base ratio.
Besides tracking speaker composition at conferences to persuade organizers to invite more women speakers, BWN and other projects like Anne's List (a directory of 170 women in computational neuroscience) aim to raise awareness of implicit bias, which is especially problematic in STEM fields where women are already underrepresented. Scientific progress relies on a scientist's connections as much as it does the quality of their work, so projects like BWN and Anne's List combat implicit bias and promote diversity of representation to ensure a broad range of ideas are heard.
To learn more about implicit bias, BiasWatchNeuro, and Anne's List, check out the links below:
Understanding Implicit Bias (Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University)BiasWatchNeuroAnne's ListNew York Times article: Female Scientists Turn to Data to Fight Lack of Representation on Panels
September 2016: The Woman of Hopkins Project
There is a wonderful initiative this fall to honor JHU's most accomplished women through a Women of Hopkins art exhibit at the Mattin Center on the Homewood campus. Please consider helping out in this effort by writing a biography of your favorite candidate! You can view all of the amazing women being honored and get more information at this website: http://www.womenofhopkins.com/
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. The group will include your writing on the website with full attribution at the bottom of the corresponding bio page.
May 2016: Speak up about subtle sexism in sciencce
In a world view column in nature, Dr. Tricia Serio introduces her recent work on highlighting subtle gender-based discriminations and microaggressions in academic environment. While seemingly naive and harmless on the surface, Tricia believes that subtle and indirect comments can play a role in the existing academic gender-gap and contribute to lower diversity in science. Furthermore, this class of interactions are seldom reported in comparison with other forms of sexual discrimination or harassment, hindering efforts to evaluate their frequency and impact.
Tricia has launched a platform (http://www.speakyourstory.net/) which encourages academics to share stories where they were targets of microagression.
December 2015: Fortune's Most Powerful Women (MPW) Annual Next Gen Summit
The MPW initiative ranks the top 50 most influential women at top companies in corporate America. On December 1-2, Fortune held its second annual MPW Next Gen Summit at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. It gathered preeminent rising women in business—along with select leaders in government, philanthropy, education, sports, and conversations covered key business, political and societal issues. Highlights from this year's summit include the true economic cost of gender bias in the technology industry as estimated by Laura Mather, CEO and founder of Unitive; how two of the most powerful women in health technology, Anne Wojcicki (23andMe) and Cindy Whitehead (Sprout Pharmaceutical) tackled FDA regulation; the social skills or "superpowers" needed to lead a unicorn start-up by the NextDoor, CloudFlare, and EventBrite cofounders; and how changing traditional girls toys can help attract more girls to STEM fields, by GoldieBlox CEO Debbie Sterling and DC Entertainment's Creative Director of Development, Aria Moffly.
November 2015: Inflexible partners and women's academic careers.
A new report published in Studies in Higher Education evaluates the impact of partners on women's academic careers. Findings suggest that while improving the maternity leave is beginning to receive more emphasis, inflexibility of partners is another significant factor deserving further attention. The study reports that women in academic research whose partners work full-time jobs are less likely to advance their careers by international collaboration due to the added difficulty of relocation or long-distance travels. Interestingly, the data support that male or female scholars with partners in academia are more likely to collaborate internationally; highlighting the idea that fellow academics are more aware of the importance of collaborating across borders than the general public.
October 2015: The numbers need to change!
A recent survey by the L’Oreal Foundation in Europe juxtaposes the pervasive prejudice against women in science with the overestimation of women's representation in scientific fields. Shockingly, 89% of participants thought women have aptitudes for "everything except science" and 67% believed women lack key skills for achieving leading scientific positions. Women are thought to be deficient in qualities like competitiveness, perseverance, rational thought, and analytic skills… Despite such negative perceptions, participants greatly overestimated the current proportion of leading female scientists in the EU as 28% , and it is actually only 11%. About 60% however hope for a faster increase of the proportion of female scientists and wish that women make up 50% of science Nobel laureates rather than the current 3% . #ChangeTheNumbers is a digital campaign to share the results of this study and engage the community.
July 2015: Debugging the Gender GapCODE: Debugging the Gender Gap is a recent documentary by Robin Hauser Reynolds that explores the reasons behind under-representation of female and minority software engineers in the tech industry. CODE examines educational and cultural contexts which have resulted in the current gender gap, and features break-through efforts that are producing more diverse programmers. Motivated by the projected 1 million unfilled computer science related jobs in 2020, the documentary aims at inspiring women and minorities to pursue careers in STEM, encouraging parents to identify hidden gender biases, and urging educators to incorporate computer science and programming into their curricula.
June 2015: Are male leaders penalized for seeking help?
A recent study by Rosette et al. published last month in The Leadership Quarterly looks at the impact of gender stereotypes on men in workplace. The study uses field and lab experiments to investigate why men are less likely to ask for help. The findings reveal the flip side of a widely discussed observation that assertive/aggressive behavior from women in leadership positions is penalized. Results from both field and lab experiments suggest that men who ask for help tend to be perceived as less competent and are penalized, despite acting in the best interest of their institutions. The study highlights the potential benefit of incorporating some prototypically feminine values in management.
May 2015: Study reports preference for female candidates in STEM tenure-track hiring test
A new study of gender equality in securing tenure-track positions was published this month in PNAS. The authors conducted a survey of 873 faculty members in biology, psychology, engineering and economics, presenting them with hypothetical job candidates. The hypothetical candidates were designed with matching qualifications, but differing genders. The surprising findings of the study support that men and women faculty in all four disciplines favored female applicants with a ratio of 2:1. Amidst the expected excitement among advocates of gender equality in academia, there is a concern that the progress could be over-interpreted and it is likely too soon to cheer. The authors hope that their recent findings will project an empowering message, and help increase the number of women applying for tenure track positions.
April 2015: You Can Always Tell An Ambitious Woman By The Shape Of Her Head
In a recent TED event, Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley shares the unlikely story of how in 1960s, she founded an all-female, and hugely successful software company. She was determined to bring highly qualified women to work and to allow women a chance return to the workforce after career breaks. What makes her story even more remarkable is the fact that she founded a successful software company at a time when it was assumed that software should be distributed free of charge with the hardware. You can find more about her inspiring life journey here and here.
March 2015: Crowdsourcing Women in Science and Engineering Initiatives
A recent post on Scientific American blog Symbiartic covers two recent crowdsourcing initiatives attempting to improve how women in science and engineering are represented in media. The first initiative Science needs women is partnership between Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party and the PBS youtube show It’s Okay to Be Smart. "Science needs women" aims at breaking the stereotypes driving girls and young women away from science by providing inspiring role models. In the second initiative, Lee Zlotoff---the creator of the popular show MacGyver---has partnered with USC Viterbi school of engineering to create the next great TV show about an engineer, starring a women in the lead role. The project is encouraging submissions for the title, genre, pilot episode summary and more by April 17, 2015. More details are available at the contest website.
February 2015 Part 1: Expectation of brilliance and gender distribution in academia
A recent study published in Science this January investigates the influence of the expectation of brilliance on the existing gender gap in STEM as well as social sciences and humanities. The authors analyze responses from a survey of ~1800 graduate students, post doctoral fellows and faculty across a wide range of 30 academic disciplines (12 STEM, 18 SocSci/Hum). Their findings support that how practitioners of a field regard the necessity of innate ability compared to hard work for success is a strong predictor of the representation of women in that discipline. Thus, an adjustment of message by putting more emphasis on sustained effort as opposed to intellectual giftedness can be an effective measure in increasing the diversity in many academic fields.
February 2015 Part 2: Attack on sexism in Tech ≠ An attack on men
While many perceive recent controversies surrounding sexism and gender bias in Tech as an attack on men, Ian Gent argues why this is not the case using the concept of Petrie Multiplier in a blog post. The post introduces a simple and intuitive probabilistic scheme to model individual interactions and exchanges of sexist remarks. In an illustrative example, he focuses on a scenario where equal fractions of men and women hold sexist opinions toward the other gender. Even in this condition, if women are under-represented by a factor of 4 in an environment, the model predicts that an average woman will receive a sexist remark 16 times more often than an average man. Therefore, an attack on sexism in Tech is not an attack on men.
January 2015: Women in STEM - 2014 Review
In a year-end post, Theresa Liao of the science communication blog, "Science, I choose you!", looks back at the events which highlight the status of women in STEM in 2014. In this comprehensive post, you can learn more about moments which got many of us all excited (The first Fields medal in mathematics awarded to a woman), initiatives in the tech industry that triggered mixed reactions ('freeze your eggs' benefit offered by Facebook and Apple), the Gamergate controversy, and controversial reports on the status of women in STEM research [1, 2].
Finally, if you are interested in a closer look at the STEM gender gap after our December news flash, make sure to check out the brilliant infographic summarizing Diversity in Tech.
December 2014: Breaking the Silicon Ceiling
This November, Vogue features an interview with Tracy Chou, a 27-year-old rising-star problem solver and engineer with Pinterest. Tracy is a M.Sc graduate of computer science from Stanford who has interned with industry giants Google and Facebook prior to joining Pinterest. While the overall number of women in tech seems to be on the rise, she wondered whether the fraction of women engineers was following the same trend. Last October, she single-handedly spear-headed a campaign to bring transparency to workplace demographics of the tech industry by a data-driven approach. As a computer science graduate, she quickly recognized the need for establishing the baseline when tracking progress. So, she invited everyone in the industry to share brief stats reporting the fraction of women engineers in their company/division via an online repository. Prior hesitation by many industry leaders was not a promising sign, but the stats were more grim than expected with the majority of entries below 20%. Tracy's work has helped highlight the engineering gender gap more quantitatively than before, and has already led to some improvement.
November 2014: How to Close the Gender Gap in Engineering
A recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicates that in 2013, only about 19% of engineering college graduates were women. While the experts have pointed out the typical culprits (mainly lack of encouragement and confidence), Huffington Post's Betsy Isaacson interviewed Dr. Maria Klawe, the current president of Harvey Mudd College where more than half of the engineering students are women. In this engaging interview, Dr. Klawe mentions that women and under-represented minorities are more attracted to environments with team-based activities where individuals are encouraged to help each other and engage the entire class. She also cites compelling introductory courses centered around creative problem-solving (as opposed to competition) as one of the main factors driving the increase in female enrollment. Finally, she sees inter-disciplinary majors crossing traditionally male-dominated areas with areas of great interest among women as a great opportunity in bridging the engineering gender gap.
October 2014: Jennifer Shaw on tech literacy Passing the Torch: Women Helping Women spotlights Jennifer Shaw’s efforts to bring tech literacy and support to women of all walks of life. She is the founder of NYTechWomen, an organization built to connect women in tech and entrepreneurship in a welcoming environment and provide them with support as they navigate their careers. At the same time, Shaw believes this type of support should be available to women all across the country and has also founded Bella Minds to bring tech literacy to rural women in the middle of their careers. Her efforts through Bella Minds are targeted at combating the low participation of women in the labor force and lack of resources for women in rural areas through the idea that digital literacy gives women greater opportunities for creative careers that they can control.
September 2014: This is not your father's STEM job!
An article in The Atlantic explores the idea that many women trained in STEM are choosing exciting new interdisciplinary work that can’t easily be categorized in the traditional STEM fields. Two such women are highlighted: a Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum of Chicago and the founder of Tiltfactor, an educational game research lab. The entrance of women in STEM, the article explains, may expand the definition of these fields to include creative work that crosses and connects traditional disciplines. While job stability is still a hurdle that faces such careers, they are promising for increasing innovation in STEM industries. Read here!August 2014:
In this short video, Emily Graslie, the writer, producer and host of the YouTube science channel “The Brain Scoop” talks about whether she has experienced sexism in her job. As a science show host, she reads some of the sexist comments aimed at her and talks about how sexism in the form of these comments could discourage women from pursuing similar careers.
Quoted from the video:
“… is there any part of my job that I don’t look forward to, I would have to say would be the frustratingly negative and sexist comments that I have to sift through in my various inboxes on a daily basis …. We have a fear of the feedback from our subscribers and commenters because we’re afraid that our audience is more focused on our appearance than the quality of our content … That brings on self criticism, like, I’m not intelligent, or funny or engaging enough on my own.”
In an effort to recruit more women into tech fields, Google has launched an exciting new $50 million initiative targeted at inspiring and teaching middle and high school girls to code. Through its own research, the company determined that, for girls, interest in computer science depends on social encouragement, self-perception, academic exposure, and career perception. To address these issues and encourage an interest in tech early on, Google has launched the Made with Code website, which includes coding projects, a list of female role models and mentors, and a searchable database of coding programs and camps across the country. As evidenced by the website and the launch event (see a video of the high-energy event here), the Made with Code initiative shows girls how coding can be an essential part of a variety of fields, from music and dance to design.
For those of us who wish this was around when we were in high school, Google is also partnering with Code School to offer three months of free coding education for women and minorities. You can read about the program and how to apply here.
Lea Verou discusses how most of the Women in Tech (WiT) initiatives are doing more harm than good in a post on her blog, Lea’s Pensieve. She argues that these initiatives oftentimes fail to inspire women, isolate and patronize them and therefore, contribute to sexism. She points out that although sexism still persists in the society, Tech communities are affected much less by it. At the end, she indicates that the solution to this issue is to start early, encourage our girls to build stuff and praise them on their skills.
Read the full article here.
Let us know what you think!
In a recent article appearing in The Atlantic, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the scarcity of women at the top levels of their professions can largely be attributed to a shortage of confidence when compared to their male colleagues. Shipman and Kay examine how women’s underestimation of their own abilities arises and is shaped by environment and how it can be damaging to their success.
The study by Ehrlinger and Dunning cited by the article: PMID: 12518967
Differing opinion from Christiane Amanpour
Let us know what you think!