Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bonus Post on "shifting" rationale

From the mentornet website:

I got this in an email. I really appreciate how the author summarizes the phenomenon so succinctly.

Subconscious Bias Perpetuates Gender Gap

Last week we were invited to attend the 2010 NCWIT summit in Portland, Oregon, with its impressive array of presentations. One in particular, "The role of implicit bias in perpetuation of the gender gap in science and technology" by Dr. Brian Nosek, Department of Psychology at University of Virginia, made me wonder how much we are at the mercy of subconscious factors when we make decisions, even when we have the best of intentions.

One of the studies cited found that when asked which firefighter had the best credentials for promotion, the percentage was always higher for the male candidate, no matter which credentials were attached. And when the participants were asked why they had chosen this candidate, they did not say that it was because of his gender. They were convinced that it was the credentials that influenced their decision. According to the researcher, this phenomenon is called "shifting": when the criterion moves in order to accommodate a subconscious prejudice. The difficulty in fighting this phenomenon is that the person making the decision is not conscious at all that it was gender that determined the final outcome and not the credentials.

-Alejandra Velásquez, Director of Media and Communications

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At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, this is news because?

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and your readership might be interested in the following post. The link says it all

At 3:12 PM, Blogger the gods must be crazy said...


I'm in a predominately female field so I wonder how the numbers would play out in that context.

I wanted to introduce myself as well. I've recently started re-blogging in a new blog about my adventures in science and life. :)

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Kea said...

Of course, a great many studies have come to this conclusion. I don't know of any males in my field who are aware of these studies, however. And some of them even work for universities that have a legal obligation to address the gender problem in their field. In my experience, a common sentiment amongst the more thoughtless men is that 'everyone should be treated the same', and that's what they will often tell you. So I guess that some of them really do believe that they are unsexist! Boggles the mind.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has nothing to do with this post.
Someone forwarded me an article published in Molecular Cell titled "How to Survive and Thrive in the Mother-Mentor Marathon" that i thought you might be intested in reading and perhaps discussing. It's in the current issue (28 May 2010). Don't know if this link will work, but here it is anyway

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Someone else sent me that too. I'm really not in the mood to read it. Either it will be wonderful, and I'll say "wow, if only I had read this ten years ago!" or it will be stupid and completely wrong, and that will just piss me off.

Maybe someone can do a guest post or refer us to another blog that talks about it enough to help me decide if it will tell me anything I don't already know (and anything I haven't already found to be lovely-sounding bullshit).

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Kea said...

I'm confused. Is anon perhaps suggesting that all our whining is because we're getting old and we really just want to have babies? It sure seems that way, because the link is not at all enlightening. Personally, I gave up the idea of having babies about 15 years ago, mainly because all the guys who liked me were whiny sexist creeps.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Kea, I'm not sure. I thought it was strange that the article is really not about *that* biological clock, but they used that tagline to get people to read it, I guess. I took it as just another signpost along the road to equality. The signs all say "not there yet".

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the article's author failed to mention how critically important it is to have a supportive spouse/partner at home! And that this is something that may not be within your control (you can't change other people if they don't want to change). Or maybe she just took it for granted that everyone else does too? Or that you are wealthy enough to pay for support services?

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is probably an ad, and Luisi a computer program. :-) It has also appeared as a comment in several other blogs.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They were convinced that it was the credentials that influenced their decision"

BUT BUT BUT THEY CHOSEEEE TEH BESTESTEST!!!1!!!11!!!1!! after they moved the goalposts around, of course, to suit themselves and their insecurities.

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Tamara said...

It is a kind of sexual discrimination and unfortunately these kind of things will probably continue to happen for a long time. It is extremely hard to make people change their minds and especially when they are convinced that they are making a choice based on the credentials and not on gender.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous girl in sweden said...

As a soon to be 35 yo woman I will say that I have thuoght about babies more the last 3 years than ever before. However, I don't know if this is becasue OTHER people seeem to talk about "so, you can't wait too long with the babies" or if I erally want them etc.

I'm leaning towards saying that the whole "babies argument" is similar to the "oh, angry woman, you must have PMS".

I agree with Kia sort of, I'd have babies earlier (or at all) if it didn't feel like I was suppose to turn into only a baby maker by former spouse/bf (and sort of society and friends too).

The credentials/gender thing is partly why there was a study of "ranking these CVs without gender" and lo and behold, the female scientists got better rankings. There is something inheritant about a male name.... when getting ranked by both men and females (since we are all in the societal rains).

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Cloud said...

with regards to the paper anon @ @:54 references- I have read it. It is about how to combine an academic career with motherhood, and since you have stated you have no interest in having kids, I don't think you'd find it relevant at all.

It isn't stupid, just not about problems you face. For what it is worth, the advice is fairly similar to advice for working mothers in any professional career.

But I'm kind of glad anon posted it here, because I wouldn't have found it otherwise. I've added it to my post about scientists who are mothers.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

Well thank the science gods I'm not a fireman... 'cause according to my male colleagues, THAT kind of bias would never happen in my field. (rolls eyes)


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