Unconscious Bias - Part 2
Title: Beyond Gender Schemas: Improving the Advancement of Women in Academia
Few women are at the top of their profession, practically in all professions, and the problem of women making slower progress on advancing career than men is pervasive and ubiquitous. The problem exists not just in one industry, but occurs in diverse sectors including business, science, academia, medicine and law. In this review of research article, the author argues that gender schemas (unconscious biases, perceptions, judgments) and the accumulation of advantage that men have play roles in inducing this problem. Basically, gender schemas we live with overrate men and underrate women, and over time, these estimations give un-earned advantage for men. One of the gender schemas states that women do not care about high salary. When women do, then, they are deemed as socially deviant. Men are more likely to be perceived as leaders. Women have to work harder to prove their position of leadership. Men have heightened senses of entitlement while women devalue their own work. The author concludes with practices that institutions can implement in order to increase gender equity, including increasing transparency and improving efforts to recruit underrepresented applicants.
In this qualitative study, researchers analyzed over 300 recommendation letters written for medical faculty positions at one medical school in the mid-1990s.They found that the letters written for women applicants were systematically different from those written or men. Specifically, the letters for female faculty members were shorter and had what the researchers called, “doubt raisers”—reflected in negative or potentially negative language (e.g., “She has a somewhat challenging personality,” “It appears that her health and personal life are stable”), faint praise (e.g., “She worked hard on projects that she accepted”) and irrelevant references to personal life (e.g., "She is quite close to my wife”). Letters for male applicants, on the other hand, contained more superlative adjectives such as “outstanding,” “superb,” etc. Also, training and teaching were mentioned more in letters for women candidates, whereas research skills and career related comments were more frequently invoked in letters for men. The authors speculate that the letter writers might have employed stereotypes and gender schemas unconsciously in deciding what information to present for the female candidates and conclude the article with implications for women’s advancement in academic medicine and directions for future research.
This review of research article explores unconscious bias and gender schemas, particularly in relation to women in academic research fields. The authors offer practical recommendations to reduce unconscious bias. While women are slowly gaining parity in obtaining high-level science degrees, academic science has high rates of researcher/instructors gender differentials. Further, women tend to “disappear” after approximately 10 years of working in academia. The authors argue that a reason for this phenomenon is unconscious gender bias, which hinders women’s promotion to leadership positions such as tenured professorship or administrators. The authors offer suggestions to help improve the problem, including supporting legal measures like Title IX and committing to institutional efforts to minimize unconscious biases—e.g., considering gender when reviewing CV or materials for promotion, advancement and award opportunities, holding workshops and owning unconscious gender bias.
Are the psychological processes underlying unconscious bias malleable? What about automatic attitudes and beliefs about certain social groups (e.g., women)? Can gender-stereotypic beliefs be unlearned through environmental conditions, including counter-stereotypic examples? These are the core questions pursued by this study. Researchers conducted two experiments–one in a lab, the other as a year-long field study–to test women’s reactions to counter-stereotypic women in leadership positions. In the first experiment, 72 women (aged 17 to 62) received pictures and biographical information of famous women in leadership roles or pictures of flowers. The participants were then asked about their thoughts on the women leaders or the flowers presented. Both groups then took the Implicit Association Test (gender-IAT), a popular tool that measures automatic beliefs about women relative to men. Participants who looked at pictures of women leaders associated women with leadership roles faster than those who were exposed to the flowers. In the second experiment, researchers compared two groups of female students in two college environments (41 students from each), one a women’s college (with higher representation of women in leadership roles) and the other a coeducational college. Automatic gender-stereotyped beliefs were measured when they entered college and after their first year. Researchers found that both groups held similar automatic, stereotypic views about women when they entered college. However, after a year, the cohort from the women’s college expressed no gender stereotypes, whereas the cohort from the coeducational college expressed strong gender stereotypes, hinting at the influence of women-affirmative environmental factors. The authors conclude the study with a discussion on the importance of changing local environments that make women in leadership roles to be palpable as a tool to counter gender stereotypes.
Female musicians have long been discriminated against in the world of classical music, and their representation in symphonies and orchestras has been low historically. In this classic study, researchers’ findings point to a solution for this historical discrimination: “blind,” screened auditions wherein the gender of the candidates is not revealed prior to decision making. The literal use of screens helped to increase female musicians’ advancement from one round of the audition process to the next by 50%, as well as creating a higher probability that a woman candidate would be hired. The authors suggest that using blind auditions, which started around the 1970s, is in part responsible for the 30% increase in new hires of female musicians in orchestras and 20% of increase in female orchestral musicians between 1970 and 1996. They end the article by championing the adoption of blind/screened auditions to ensure impartiality in hiring decisions.