Interview: Science March on Washington

I’ll be sharing with you some recent media interviews I’ve done on issues with diversity in the March for Science. The first is by STAT News.

Source: STAT News

“Australian-based sociologist Zuleyka Zevallos, in an email to STAT, pointed to what she called ‘racist dog-whistling’ by the Los Angeles march chapter in a Twitter post that was since deleted: ‘some scientists [are] concerned with the march turning into [a] political event and losing its focus. What do YOU pledge to do to keep it peaceful?” The leap from ‘political’ to ‘violent’ did not sit well with some minority science advocates.

Last week, Zevallos published an article about the march’s various diversity problems — a move she made after ‘close to two months of equity missteps, and many scientists were fed up by having offered their volunteering, advice and resources, only to be ignored,’ she said.”

This article has many troubling aspects. From how diversity is discussed by one of the March for Science committee members (diversity “diminishes science”); to the revelation post-publication that one of the former committee members quoted (Morris) has a long history of White supremacist and sexist behaviour; to, it seems, possible unethical practices by the journalist (this piece was updated with additional quotes by committee members in response to being misquoted).

What a mess.

Accessibility in Urban Planning

When I first arrived in Brisbane for a work trip, I was impressed to see braille on every major street sign. Sydney has many such signs; Melbourne and other cities have fewer or none.

On my second day in Brisbane, I came across an elderly woman who said the lift to cross this major bridge was broken and she was braving up the stairs to get to her bus stop. I asked if she wanted help but she said “I can do this. I’ll just go slow.” She said she couldn’t believe the lift had not been looked into. Many other people were struggling without the lift.

Brisbane is not alone here;

I travel a lot around Australia and few major cities are planned around accessibility, despite our diverse needs as a society, and in spite of the fact that our population is ageing rapidly. This is as much an issue of urban planning as it is about equity and social inclusion. A ripe area for applied sociology to make a useful contribution.

[Photo 1: street sign at night with braille reads “George Street to Brisbane Square. Photo 2: Aerial view of busy Brisbane road.]

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

Gender Bias in Science Hiring

I’ve been quoted in this article in the New Scientist concerning the critique of a new study that argues women are not disadvantaged in science hiring. Please read it as Lisa Grossman has included excellent discussion by scientists Katie Mack and Lucianne Walkowicz addressing why talking about inequality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is necessary for increased equality and diversity.

“Williams and Ceci do not have data to support how scientists rank potential candidates,” writes sociologist Zuleyka Zevallos. “They have produced data about how scientists respond to a study about gender bias in academia, when they can easily guess that gender bias is being observed.”

Continue reading Gender Bias in Science Hiring

Ending Sexual Harassment in STEM

Dr Kathryn Clancy and colleagues conducted a study that finds sexual harassment is a widespread occurrence amongst researchers in the field. Women are especially likely to be harassed by a senior colleague. The study makes reference to three broad existing approaches that may be used to manage sexual harassment: “codes of conduct, principles of community, and sexual harassment policies.” The researchers note that despite these avenues, few of the participants in the study reported their experience of harassment. Few people knew how to report harassment. It is also likely that both victims and bystanders feared the immediate career repercussions of reporting harassment, as well as the after effects, such as ongoing trauma and career performance. The researchers note that of the minority who did report on sexual harassment, they were predominantly unsatisfied with the outcomes.

This post picks up on the existing avenues of action, centred on the principles of community approach. Continue reading Ending Sexual Harassment in STEM

Girls in STEM

A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, Nature.com. We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels. Continue reading Girls in STEM