Corinne Moss-Racusin, Ph.D. has something to say about these questions, and she did, during this week's HKS WAPPP Seminar. She is currently conducting research on how gender stereotyping is a contributing cause to the under representation of women in STEM fields. Prior to her current work, research had shown that there are problems such as inequitable access to science resources for women, such as lab space, there was experimental evidence of bias in other fields, and there was anecdotal evidence of bias provided by STEM students. However, to provide more conclusive knowledge of the biases in the field, Moss-Racusin and her colleagues conducted experimental studies that provide insightful results.
|Dr. Moss-Racusin at the HKS WAPPP Seminar|
|It seems that we are all equally biased.|
Finally, Moss-Racusin's research moved into what Professor Hannah Riley-Bowles called "daring" territory for scholars: practice. Looking for a way to improve diversity trainings that have produced mixed results, she partnered with professional filmmakers to create twelve high-quality films that communicated the findings of the latest research on gender bias. She then measured the difference between individuals randomly assigned to view this material versus a control group who was exposed to similar videos but which did not touch on the topic. Her results show that whether it is a narrative film that shows the findings in a story-telling manner, or a documentary-style intellectual approach, there is an effect that the videos can have that increases awareness and reduces gender bias, and it can last at least six months. Worthy of note was that the 'intellectual' format seemed to have a bigger effect, especially when the test subjects were STEM faculty members.
Why should we care? As was mentioned, a recent White House report predicts that we may need at least a million more STEM majors to respond to the economy's needs. There is a large potential available in the female workforce to supply this expertise, "gender parity really is in the interest of our national competitiveness", as Dr. Moss-Racusin puts it. And moreover, the problem is not fixing itself. Her research finds no cohort effects, which means it is not a generational issue. The under representation of women in this fields is not going away unless we work at it. Finally, research has shown that diverse teams produce better results, so if we do not diversify science, we all stand to lose.
Check out the event's page to listen to the podcast of the talk and take a look at the presentation that Dr. Moss-Racusin kindly shared with us.