Ways to Enhance Gender Equity and Diversity in STEMM

Informed and Practical Ways to Enhance Gender Equity and Diversity in Science
This is Part 2 on my participation in Kiwi Foo, an invitation-only “unconference” in Auckland, New Zealand, that brings together people from broad fields to work on social change (read about the rest of Kiwi Foo in Part 1). I spoke about Informed and Practical Ways to Enhance Gender Equity and Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM).

Ruby Payne-Scott. Photo via Peter Gavin Hall, Wikipedia
Ruby Payne-Scott. Photo via Peter Gavin Hall, Wikipedia, CC 3.0

I started my talk at Kiwi Foo by telling the story of Ruby Payne-Scott, a pioneer in radio astronomy whose work led to major technological innovation and scientific knowledge. She supported top secret science on radar detection in the 1940s during the war, and she was a women’s rights activist. During the 1930s and 1940s, she worked for Australia’s premier government research agency, CSIRO, at a time where women were not allowed to be married and working in the public service. So she secretly married in 1944 and subsequently lost (but fought hard to keep) her permanent position at CSIRO. She was finally forced to resign in 1951, a few months before the birth of her son, Peter, as her pregnancy was no longer able to be hidden. Her career in science was effectively ended because her family status was deemed unlawful for the public service.

Ruby Payne-Scott, third from the right, at the 1952 International Union of Radio Science conference, University of Sydney
Ruby Payne-Scott, 5th from the right, at the 1952 International Union of Radio Science conference, University of Sydney. Photo: Wikipedia, CC 3.0

Women scientists and allies who care about gender equity in STEMM tell Dr Payne-Scott’s story often, though it is a shamefully unknown story by broader Australia. My point in beginning my talk with this lamentable tale is that Payne-Scott’s historic impact lives on for the wrong reasons. In Australia, the shameful employment discrimination she endured overshadows her scientific achievements in many ways. More sadly, while women in the present day are no longer discriminated in the same overt way, other structural inequalities make it difficult for women to remain in science, especially after they have children. So Payne-Scott’s legacy remains perennially relevant, 70 years later. Continue reading Ways to Enhance Gender Equity and Diversity in STEMM

Structural Barriers for Women in Science

“But the sad fact is it is much easier to say ‘we need more women in science’ than it is to stand up, look the (mostly male) leaders in science and politicians in the eye and say: ‘Your laboratories, hiring procedures, grant-allocating processes and publishing routines are all sexist, and this results in science and technologies that aren’t good for at least half the population. Why have you allowed this to continue for so long?'”

Quote: The Guardian.

Using Data to Improve Gender Equity in STEMM

I’ll be co-hosting this Hangout on how institutions can use data and analysis to improve gender equity policies and practices in STEMM organisations.

Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) is running a Pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia. Athena SWAN is an evaluation and accreditation program that has had tremendous success enhancing gender equity and diversity in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, especially focusing on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

Thirty-two Australian institutions have signed up to the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN, including 25 universities, five medical research agencies and two government organisations. Athena SWAN seeks to improve the education and career outcomes of all women and to boost the recognition of underrepresented groups (such as transgender scientists, Indigenous Australian researchers and other minority groups). 

SAGE will interview Professor Hazel Hall, Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team Leader for Edinburgh Napier University. We’ll discuss how the university selected its team to support their application for an Athena SWAN application for a Bronze Institutional Award. This Award recognises that an institution has started substantial work to eliminate gender bias and that it is working to create an inclusive culture for all. Professor Hall will speak about how her team overcame the challenges of collecting and analysing gender equity and diversity issues for their institution. Professor Hall will also discuss how they created actions to address areas of inequity and how consultations with staff and students helped this process.

 

Continue reading Using Data to Improve Gender Equity in STEMM

Stereotypes About Gender and Science

Psychologist Linda Carli and her team find that an increased number of women in a particular field improves the perceived similarity between women and scientists but even numbers of men and women don’t necessarily lead to the same effect.

“Common cultural stereotypes about women, men, and scientists lead people to see women as incompatible with science. Men are especially prone to this bias, but everyone shares it. This may result in prejudice (a dislike of female scientists compared with men) and discrimination against them.”

Interview. Read the study in Psychology of Women Weekly.

The Future of Science: Women

Today I attended an event on how women are the future of science, co-hosted by the Australian Academy of Science at the National Press Club of Australia. It was a truly excellent discussion and historic: the Press Club hosts hundreds of talks every year – but only a small number of women have been invited as speakers. Even more sobering is the fact that women make up less than one percent of the scientists who’ve been invited to address this national media forum.

Continue reading The Future of Science: Women

How to Stop the Sexual Harassment of Women in Science: Reboot the System

Zuleyka Zevallos, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published in The Conversation

How to Stop the Sexual Harassment of Women in ScienceThe culture in astronomy, and in science more broadly, needs a major reboot following revelations early this year of another case of harassment against women by a senior male academic.

The journal Science revealed earlier this month that the latest case involved Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech university, in the United States.

Frustrated that Ott was not fired and only placed on unpaid leave for a year, the two female students who raised the allegations took their story to the popular online news outlet Buzzfeed.

Also this month, US Congresswoman Jackie Speier raised the case of Professor Tim Slater, who had been investigated for various sexual harassment incidents that began after he was hired by the University of Arizona in August 2001. Slater went on to the University of Wyoming.

Slater spoke to the news website Mashable and said he had received sexual harassment training as an outcome of the investigation.

But Congresswoman Speier questioned why the investigation into Slater’s sexual harassment was sealed “while he went on with his career”, even though women who were victims lost years of study and career progress due to his conduct.
Continue reading How to Stop the Sexual Harassment of Women in Science: Reboot the System

Gender Equity in Science Forum

Learn more about my day job with Science in Australia Gender Equity, which is working to improve gender outcomes for all women, as well as improving workplace culture for all. We also have a special focus on increasing the participation and inclusion of transgender people and Indigenous Australians, and other underrepresented groups. Continue reading Gender Equity in Science Forum

Overcoming Gender Inequality in the Classroom

Stanford law Professors Daniel Ho and Mark Kelman have conducted research showing that larger classes in law schools increase gender inequality. The study has relevance to STEM as the findings support other research about teaching in physics.

The study, published in the Journal of Legal Studies, included almost 16,000 grades given to around 1,900 students. The researchers find that pedagogy (teaching philosophy and teacher-student practice) matters to gender outcomes. The authors conclude that smaller classes where teachers provide more feedback reduce gender differences in grade scores. The researchers found that women outperformed men in small, interactive classes focused on practical exercises. The researchers note that similar results have been found in interactive physics courses.

Professor Kelman argues that the finds go against the “common sense” presumption that gender performance are “fixed”:

“Some naïve reactions are that if women get poorer grades at law school, women must be less capable… I think it’s surprising to many – and perhaps a confirmation of a more optimistic view that I have – that much of the inequality we observe in the world is mutable, and that the structures that we sometimes take for granted may work to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others.”

Sources: The study and quote. Image: Other Sociologist.

[Image: chalk and blackboard with the quote as above from “It’s surprising to many…that much of the inequality…”]

Publication: Sexism in Science Reporting

This article was first published in DiverseScholar, on 20 April, 2015.

In my previous DiverseScholar article, I showed why the study behind The New York Times Op Ed (claiming the end of sexism) was methodologically flawed and ideologically biased [Zevallos 2014]. I showed that a focus on an individual choice narrative to explain why women are disadvantaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is fundamentally unsound when understood alongside the long-standing empirical evidence from the social sciences. Here, I will review several science controversies related to the editorial and institutional decisions within STEM. These patterns show that everyday interactions contribute to gender inequality, from the use of images, to dress, to the way distinguished women scientists are described in the media. I start with a selected timeline of events highlighting gender inequality in STEM. Continue reading Publication: Sexism in Science Reporting