A lot has been written recently about diversity issues in science. Compared with two decades ago, women are now well represented among medical and graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors. However, despite these gains, we still have a small number of senior women faculty and far fewer faculty from under-represented minority groups—at Mount Sinai and nationwide. Recent studies continue to document implicit biases in the scientific workplace, and concerns remain around quality of life issues and obstacles to faculty retention and promotion that affect everyone. This Town Hall initiates a discussion this academic year for the Friedman Brain Institute to formulate positive steps by which we can make progress in these areas. We cannot solve societal issues, but perhaps we can serve as a smaller focus group and demonstrate the kinds of tangible actions that lead to real improvements.
Creating a level playing field, increasing mentorship opportunities, and making inclusion a priority, are among the steps needed to attract more underrepresented minorities and increase the number of women in senior faculty positions in the neurosciences. Read More
I think that most of the women in this room were raised to believe that girls could do anything that boys could do. When I was in college, the Woman in Science groups seemed unnecessary — I didn't need an extra hand to get to where I was going. Even as I moved to Boston to begin PhD studies, it never occurred to me that my gender would have any impact on my career. For some of the younger women in the audience, you may yet believe the same.
It wasn't until a few years later that I began to see how naïve I had been. Being a woman has been there, in the background, impacting every major decision that I made.
For example, and although things are much better now, when I started, my department in graduate school had just three women faculty, and to my knowledge, all three were childless. It was the male faculty who role-modeled the work-life balance that I dreamed of. Although unspoken, the implication was obvious. You could be a great female scientist, or, you could have a family. But not both.
In hindsight, my male peers spent their 20s making "and" decisions — it was a given that they wanted BOTH a career AND a family. They were just looking for the right partner, and invariably weighing in that search was whether she would support his career. Meanwhile, my female colleagues and I were making "or" decisions. Do I want an academic career? Or, a family? And in that lies the crux of the issue. The men never had to choose — why did we?
I was fortunate enough to have an incredible post-doc advisor. And after I committed to an Assistant Professor position here at Sinai, our relationship changed enough that I began posing him questions that I hadn't been bold enough to ask before. Chatting with him in his office one Saturday afternoon, I asked if there had ever been a time, when his children were young, that he hadn't come into lab on the weekends. His response was matter-of-fact: "no, but it was different for me, Kristen, I had a wife."
We're lucky, here at Sinai. There are lots of role models, both men and women, who demonstrate that it's possible to have both a family and a career. In fact, I don't think any of the senior faculty see this as an "or" decision at all. The question that I'd like to pose for the junior female scientists in the room, is why do we? What would need to change here at Sinai, or in the institution of academic research as a whole, in order to alter our perceptions? The best male post-docs don't opt out of research just because they want a family. It's time to give the women that same opportunity.
When Eric asked me to participate in this first Town Hall meeting on unconscious bias, it set me to thinking about my experiences serving on a variety of committees here at Mount Sinai and elsewhere, such as NIH study sections, over the past 25 years or so. What came to me quite readily was an observation that I've made repeatedly: in committee settings, during the course of open discussion, an idea or comment will be voiced by a woman, followed some time later by essentially the same idea or comment voiced by a man. What is different between these two episodes are the responses from the rest of the participants to the two speakers. The typical pattern that I've observed is a tepid response in the first instance, when the woman spoke, with a more vigorous and enthusiastic response to the similar idea voiced later by the man.
So this got me to wondering: do I do this too? I think by now we all know the answer to that— the neuroscience tells us that we all carry these sorts of biases. But how would I know, specifically, about myself? This question made me realize something that's fairly obvious —that we are always our own worst critics. We simply do not see in ourselves what is so easy to pick out in others. This is exactly why we give our colleagues and lab members our thesis proposals, our grants, or our manuscripts to critique before we submit them, or have our colleagues critique our slides before presenting them at a big meeting. We just don't see our own flaws.
So my message today would be to simply observe what goes on any group dynamic that you're involved in. At whatever level — students, postdocs, faculty — in any group situation where ideas are floated, discussed or challenged, observe who's pitching the ideas and how they're received, and perhaps this would be one small step towards improving self-awareness.
Women are less likely to ask for promotion they expect their chairs to put them up for promotion when the time is right (men ask to be put up for promotion when they think the time is right!). Something can do to help ourselves is be proactive, ask to be put up for promotion like your male colleagues.
Women are much less likely to have a sponsor, most sponsors are usually senior white men who sponsor people who look like them. However, sponsors can play a huge and positive role — I had two senior researchers who were not my mentors/dept chair who put me up for awards, suggested me for talks at meetings or to serve on important national committees, they included me in funding opportunities that are associated with who you know — this has resulted over the years in millions of $$ of funding I would not have had access to without their help.
Implicit bias: I recently received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Alz Assoc. I asked for a list of the previous winners. Although the award had been made for about 20 yrs there were very few women who had won the award before 2010 but about 50% of winners after 2010 were women. Before 2010 the awards were administered by a committee of senior men in the field. After 2010 the Alz Assoc took over and a committee of women and men administered the award with explicit instructions to identify a diverse group of individuals who met specific eligibility criteria.
A few months ago I was having lunch with a Nobel Laureate and the Dean of Graduate Affairs at a local university. A member of the National Academy came up to the table and I was introduced and that I had just moved to MSSM. Once introduced the NA member asked me who I was working with at MSSM? How old did he think I am? Would he have asked the same question of Eric or George? I doubt it but of course I cant prove it. I replied that I had been recruited as a Director of a new center for AD research. None of the others around the table even blinked at the exchange.
|November 19, 2015||Pamela Abner, MPA & Dr. Poliandro||Workshop on Implicit Bias|
|December 5, 2015||Hurd, Krieger, etc.||Implicit Bias Panel Discussion|
|February 4, 2016||Dr. Peg McCarthy||Male-Female Sex Differences in Brain Function|
|May 12, 2016||Dr. Liz Phelps||Implicit Race Bias and Brain Imaging|
|September 15, 2016||Dr. Erich Jarvis||Surviving as a Minority Scientist in a Majority World|
|October 13, 2016||Lee Limbard, PHD||How to navigate the various phases of your career|
|October 27, 2016||Anne Churchland, PhD||Grass roots approaches to furthering under-represented groups in science|
|January 25, 2017||Yael Niv, PhD||How best to understand the brain? Start by counteracting unintentional biases|
|January 30, 2017||Edith Cooper, AB, MM||Diversity and the Power of Difference|
Curb Implicit Bias to Increase Women in Neuroscience
To increase awareness of the issues facing women in academia, SfN has created a 30-minute turnkey PowerPoint presentation called Increasing Women in Neuroscience Toolkit: Implicit Bias. The presentation includes global statistics on faculty salaries by gender, evidence that implicit bias affects recruitment and evaluation, and an overview of common schemas. Relevant notes are included for each slide, making it easy for members to download the file and present to an audience with little advanced preparation.
BiasWatchNeuro.com. The goal of this site is to track the speaker composition of conferences in neuroscience, particularly with respect to gender representation.
Looking inward at gender issues.
Editor-in-Chief, Science Journals. firstname.lastname@example.org
27 JANUARY 2017 • Science 355 (6323): 329
Gender imbalance in science journals is still pervasive. The latest update on Nature’s sexism shows an increase in female contributors and referees since 2012, but there is a long way to go. Nature 541, 435–436 (26 January 2017)
Journals invite too few women to referee. Jory Lerback and Brooks Hanson present an analysis that reveals evidence of gender bias in peer review for scholarly publications. Nature 541, 455–457 (26 January 2017)
Lin Bian, Sarah-Jane Leslie, Andrei Cimpian. Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests. Science 27 Jan 2017: Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 389-391 DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6524
Sklar, David P. MD Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice—If Not Now, When?. AAMC June 2016 - Volume 91 - Issue 6 - p 747–749 doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001179
Mervis J. DATA CHECK: For female scientists, mixed funding results at U.S. agencies. Science 08 Jan 2016: Vol. 351, Issue 6269, pp. 115 DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6269.115
"Achieving Gender Equity at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting" (A. Casadevall, mBio, July/August 2015, 6(4):1) demonstrates how to achieve gender equity as they did recently at the ASM meeting.
Bita Moghaddam, Raquel E Gur. Women at the Podium: ACNP Strives to Reach Speaker Gender Equality at the Annual Meeting. Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication, 11 November 2015; doi:10.1038/npp.2015.320.
Urry M. Science and gender: Scientists must work harder on equality. Nature 528, 471–473(24 December 2015), doi:10.1038/528471a
One day in August 2015, the Princeton University neuroscientist Yael Niv saw an email notice of a conference on deep brain stimulation, a hot topic in treatment for depression and other mental disorders. Dr. Niv noticed that none of the 21 scientists scheduled to speak were women. Read More
Despite earning higher praise, women get lower scores on NIH grant renewals, which may contribute to an attrition of mid-career female scientists. Read More
The habit of implicit bias can be broken, but it takes awareness and behavioural strategies, says a new study. Read More
Three economists ... evaluated these gender-neutral tenure-extension policies in important new research. The policies led to a 19 percentage-point rise in the probability that a male economist would earn tenure at his first job. In contrast, women's chances of gaining tenure fell by 22 percentage points. Before the arrival of tenure extension, a little less than 30 percent of both women and men at these institutions gained tenure at their first jobs. The decline for women is therefore very large. It suggests that the new policies made it extraordinarily rare for female economists to clear the tenure hurdle. Read More
Honolulu — OVER the past two decades as a professor, I've grown thousands of plants, studying how their biology shifts in response to our changing environment. Soon I'll begin to design and build my fourth laboratory; I'll teach classes and take on more staff members, as I do every year. Read More
A prominent molecular biologist at the University of Chicago has resigned after a university recommendation that he be fired for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy. His resignation comes amid calls for universities to be more transparent about sexual harassment in their science departments, where women account for only one-quarter of senior faculty jobs. Read More
One day in grad school, a couple of friends and I were sitting at a table in a hallway in the astronomy building, working on a problem set. The professor who had assigned the problems walked by and noticed what we were doing — which was fine, working together was encouraged. But then he commented, "Hey, I'm confused — you're all smart guys, so how come the girls have been scoring better than you on the problem sets?" Out loud we mumbled something noncommittal, but I remember thinking, "Maybe they are … also smart?" Read More
Economics remains a stubbornly male-dominated profession, a fact that members of the profession have struggled to understand. After all, if the marketplace of ideas is meant to ensure that the best ideas thrive, then this imbalance should arise only if men have better ideas than women. Read More
Nearly everyone agrees that science has a gender problem. But the size of the gap depends on the area of science. Now, a study of nearly 1 million engineering paper co-authorships puts hard numbers on the problem in this male-dominated scientific field, and finds a paradoxical trend: Female engineers are publishing in slightly more prestigious journals on average than their male colleagues, but their work is getting less attention. Read More
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is back before the Supreme Court today. The court has agreed to hear, for the second time, the case of Abigail Fisher, a white applicant who claims that she was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin because of her race. Read More
All-male speaker lineups are so commonplace that there's at least one Tumblr blog dedicated to mocking them. The endless stream of them can leave one overwhelmed and perhaps even convinced that they're inevitable. Read More
Unconscious bias – judgments and behaviors toward others that we're not aware of – is everywhere in our lives. And while this type of bias may seem less dangerous in the workplace than it may be on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., or in a courtroom, it still leads to racial injustice. Read More
Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele
An Issue Whose Time Has Come: Sex/Gender Influences on Nervous System Function
7 Nov 2016 | DOI: 10.1002/jnr.23934