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  1. A Brief and Incomplete Review of Social Science Research Relevant to the (Under)Representation of Women in Science Meredith Hughes Journal Club 2/24/12

  2. Disclaimers • 1) I am not a social scientist • 2) Most of what I am planning to say will be old news to people already in the know • 3) This is an incrediblycomplicated issue • 4) The underrepresentation of racial/ethnic minorities is also a worthy discussion topic, but the issues are different and an order of magnitude larger • 5) The purpose of this talk is awareness, not finger-pointing

  3. My Assumptions • Men and women are equally capable of making valuable scientific contributions (e.g., Spelke 2005 review, “The Mathematics of Sex” by Ceci & Williams 2010, Mertz & Kane 2012) • Neither interest (Xie & Shauman 2003) nor persistence (Seymour & Hewitt 1990s) is correlated with ability. When women leave, we lose talent. • Diversity (of people, experience, opinions) contributes to innovation and excellence (e.g., “The Difference,” by Scott Page)

  4. Outline • Good news, bad news – the status of women in STEM/astronomy • Sociological barriers and what to do about them • Implicit Bias • Stereotype Threat • Imposter Syndrome • Cultural barriers and what to do about them

  5. The Good News • Things are a lot better than they used to be. “Not until 1965 did a woman legally observe at the Hale Observatories” – Vera Rubin, Science, 1981 Margaret Burbidge

  6. The Good News • As of 2003, the only statistically significant "leak" in the astronomy pipeline was at the bachelors-to-PhD transition (Ivie 2003), although there is some evidence that representation at the upper levels may be stagnating with time (Hoffman & Urry 2004) Ivie & Ray AIP report 2005

  7. The Good News • As of 2003, there is no trend in gender representation with institution size or prestige as determined by NRC ranking (Hoffman & Kwitter 2003). • Institutions with >25% tenuredfemale faculty in astronomy as of 2011 (source: CSWA website): * U. Wisconsin * Caltech * Yale U. * CWRU * NM Tech * U. Washington * Indiana University * Gemini Observatories

  8. The Good News • Across all STEM fields (except mathematics), women who obtain faculty jobs are promoted and retained at approximately the same rates as men (Kaminski & Geisler 2012, Science)

  9. The Bad News • Across all STEM fields (except mathematics), women who obtain faculty jobs are promoted and retained at approximately the same rates as men (Kaminski & Geisler 2012, Science) • BUT • There is a 24% gap in the tenure rate between men (77%) and women (53%) who became parents within 5 years of PhD • 50% of tenured women in science, but only 30% of men, are childless 14 years after receiving their PhD • Tenured women are twice as likely as tenured men to be single (Mason & Gouldin 2002)

  10. The Bad News • Women opt out of STEM careers at much higher rates than men before the faculty level. When men opt out, salary is the most highly cited reason, whereas women cite more interpersonal, cultural, and family reasons. (Preston 2004)

  11. The Bad News • There are enormous variations between astronomy institutions, more so than can be accounted for by small number statistics (see CSWA website for up-to-date statistics). Allow me to point to a provocative, close-to-home example. • Berkeley’s fraction of female astro postdocs over the last 10 years is consistently lower than • Other top-tier institutions • Prize fellowships (20-yr average) • National average PhD recipients 2010 (5/35) now (3/26) Figure courtesy M. Modjaz

  12. The Bad News • There is a large body of research documenting systematic, widely-held biases and beliefs held by all people that disadvantage women pursuing scientific careers. (I'll discuss a few of these.)

  13. Sociological Barriers and What to Do About Them

  14. Unconscious Bias The idea: we ALL (men and women) unconsciously devalue the contributions of women (even when it conflicts with our conscious beliefs). Gender schemas (see Valian 1998), like many other heuristics, are designed to help our brains make decisions under pressure/stress/ambiguity (not to be fair) Please take an implicit bias test (preferably including the one on women in science):

  15. Some data… • Classic study: Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke (1999) • Panels of male and female university psych professors were asked to evaluate identical application packages for assistant professors: “Brian” or “Karen” • 2:1 preference for Brian over Karen • When evaluating tenure promotion cases, panel members expressed reservations four times more often when the name was female (effect stronger with seniority) • Argument for having explicit hiring criteria before a search • Side note: PTA bias (Correll, Benard& Paik 2007) • Identical CVs except for one line: “Active on the PTA” • Prospective employers called mothers back half as often • Fathers offered higher starting salaries

  16. Swedish Medical Research Council Postdocs • ‘Competence’ assigned by a reviewer • ‘Impact’ numerically assessed (total publications, 1st author, citations, journal impact) • Only the women with impact scores >100 were peer-reviewed to be as competent as any of the groups of men Reviewers should question their assessment of a candidate’s “competence,” use objective measures Wenneras & Wold (1997)

  17. Aspects of the Application Process Particularly Susceptible to Bias • Evaluators give systematically lower scores to women when under time pressure (Martell 1991) • Spend at least 5 minutes on each application • When only one person is chosen to represent “the best” example of a field, they usually fit the stereotype. If many are chosen, diversity is represented (Purdie et al. studies) • Cluster hiring when possible • Increasing the representation of a minority in the applicant pool reduces the use of schemas (Sackett et al. 1991) • Actively recruit a diverse applicant pool

  18. Aspects of the Application Process Particularly Susceptible to Bias • Recommendation letters (Hebl, Martin, Madera 2009) • 194 applications for 8 junior faculty positions at a US university • Names and gendered pronouns removed • Letter writers conform to traditional gender schemas, use more “communal” language for women (more “agentic” for men) • No difference between objective measures of ability (total publications, first author publications, citations, journal impact factor) • Communal characteristics are less valued by application reviewers • Also (Trix & Penska 2003): length, doubt, specificity, superlatives vs. “grindstone” adjectives, personality/family • Keep an eye out for gendered language in recommendation letters; question letter-writers’ evaluation of candidate (and think about it when you’re writing letters too)

  19. Recap: Some strategies for counteracting implicit bias • Use pre-defined, explicit, quantifiable hiring criteria whenever possible • Try to spend more time on each application • Cluster hiring • Watch for gendered language in recommendation letters (your own and others’) • Actively recruit a diverse applicant pool (a diverse committee helps too) • Maintain awareness

  20. Stereotype Threat The idea: Stereotype threat refers to “being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype of one’s group” (Steele & Aronson 1995) – originally studied in the context of racial minorities, now over 300 peer-reviewed studies in a variety of circumstances. Great resource:

  21. A couple of experiments… • Male and female students in the last semester of an advanced calculus sequence were given a practice test of GRE-level problems (Good, Aronson, Harder 2008) • All students were told that the test was “aimed at measuring your mathematical ability” – men outperform women • Half the students were told “this mathematics test has not shown any gender differences in performance or mathematics ability” – no gender gap for that case. • Asian women do better when reminded of their race and worse when reminded of their gender at the beginning of a math test (Shih, Pittinsky, Ambardy 1999) • An explanation for the 15% gender gap on the physics GRE?

  22. More about Stereotype Threat Stereotype threat has many consequences for minorities: • Underachievement on academic tasks • Self-handicapping strategies (e.g., reduced practiced time) (Stone 2002) • Reduced value placed on domain (e.g., Aronson et al. 2002) • Limit range of professions, leading to educational and social inequality (e.g., Good et al. 2008) Read application packages with an awareness that academic achievement and interest may be affected by stereotype threat

  23. Ways to reduce stereotype threat • Really simple: move standard demographic inquiries to the end of a test (Danaher & Crandall 2008) (estimated 4700 additional students annually would receive AP calculus credit) • Encourage students to think of themselves in ways that reduce salience of threatened identity (example: values affirmation writing exercise in CU Boulder physics class raised women’s grades by a full letter on average) (Miyake et al. 2010) • Constructive feedback: set high standards but express assurance that student can meet them (Cohen, Steele & Ross 1999) • Make role models visible (Marx, Stapel, Muller 2005) • Evaluate standardized test scores in context

  24. Imposter Syndrome (or “Phenomenon”) • This is not news. The term was coined by Clance& Imes (1978), and IS has been around since the beginning of time (or at least universities) • Clarence IP inventory sample: • I can give the impression that I’m more confident than I really am • When people praise me for something, I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to their expectations for me in the future • I’m afraid people important to me may find out I’m not as capable as I think I am • At times, I feel my success is due to some kind of luck • When I have succeeded at something, I have doubts that I can keep repeating that success

  25. Strategies for mitigating IS • Suggestions for advisors: • Give honest and regular feedback • Give students a sense of the importance of their work • Set students up for small confidence-building successes • Be open about stress, IS, your own failures • Give regular encouragement Adapted from “Beating the Imposter Syndrome” by Margot Gerritson

  26. Cultural Barriers and What to Do about Them

  27. Do Babies (or Families) Matter? • Yes and no. • No: • Childless women are not more successful (Mason & Gouldin2002) • There are many women in other demanding fields • Academic careers are relatively flexible (see Urry 2009) • Yes: • 68% of married female physicists are married to scientists, while only 17% of married male physicists are (McNeil & Sher 1999) • Once a woman has children she is less likely to pursue a career in science, move, be promoted, be employed (Xie & Shauman 2003) • Tenure gap (Mason & Gouldin 2002) • Ladder-rank faculty in UC system (Mason & Gouldin 2004): women spend on average 4.5 hours/week less on professional work, 18 hours more on housework/childcare • The PTA bias (Correll, Benard & Paik 2007)

  28. Parenting attitudes among college physics students Urry 2009 in Status – informal survey of introductory physics students at Yale University

  29. What can departments do? • It is difficult to address these issues, because to some extent the solutions will be individual. • A lot of ink has been spilled about university/faculty-level strategies (see, e.g., Clayman Institute @ Stanford, UC Irvine ADVANCE program) • Mentoring, awareness (resources on CSWA website) • Make policies transparent and easy to find • Postdoc level: extra years of support (reduce need to move) • Grad/postdoc level: support for paid parental leave, G-clock extensions, childcare • Grad/postdoc level: allowance for family-related gaps in application evaluations • What else can we think of?

  30. Parting thoughts… • The strategies that I’ve listed, for the most part, help everyone. • The key to addressing many of these issues is awareness. Let’s keep talking about them. • I will post this talk on the web, along with some additional resources I found helpful while preparing it • If you want to keep up with these issues, consider joining the AASWOMEN list.

  31. Resources on the Web • CSWA website (particularly the “Resources” page): • Reducing Stereotype Threat: • Implicit bias website: • Kathryn Johnston’s talk (archived on CfA WIS web page): • Paul’s Ethics for Astronomers lecture archives: • Meg Urry’s Women in Science talks: