### Unconscious Bias Talk at JPL Oct 29

Science Division Seminar

Unconscious Bias in Hiring, Promotions, and Tenure

Presented by

Joan T. Schmelz
University of Memphis

Date:  Monday, October 29, 2012
Time:  12:00 p.m.
Location: von Karman Auditorium

Abstract:

We all have biases, and we are (for the most part) unaware of them. In general, men and women BOTH unconsciously devalue the contributions of women. This can have a detrimental effect on grant proposals, job applications, and performance reviews. Sociology is way ahead of astronomy in these studies. When evaluating identical application packages, for example, male and female University psychology professors preferred 2:1 to hire “Brian” over “Karen” as an assistant professor. When evaluating a more experienced record, at the point of promotion to tenure, reservations were expressed four times more often about Karen than about Brian. This unconscious bias has a repeated negative effect on Karen’s career (Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke 1999, Sex Roles, 41, 509). In this talk, Joan will introduce the concept of unconscious bias and also give recommendations on how to address it using an example for a faculty search committee. The process of eliminating unconscious bias begins with awareness, then moves to policy and practice, and ends with accountability. For more information, please see the University of Michigan Advance STRIDE web site (http://sitemaker.umich.edu/advance/stride).

Bio:
Dr. Joan T. Schmelz received her Ph.D. from Penn State University in Astronomy in 1987. She then worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center where she was part of the operations team for the Solar Maximum Mission Satellite. She is currently a professor in the Physics Department at the University of Memphis. Her research involves the investigation of properties and dynamics of the solar atmosphere, including coronal heating, using X-ray and EUV spectroscopic and image data. She has published papers on a variety of astronomical subjects including stars, galaxies, interstellar matter, and the Sun. Schmelz has been a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) since 2004 and is currently serving her second term as committee chair. She was an editor of CSWA’s weekly e-mail newsletter, AASWOMEN, from 2005-12, and is the current Acquisitions Editor for CSWA’s semi-annual magazine, STATUS. She has spoken on a variety of CSWA-related topics including Workplace Bullying in Astronomy, Designing a 21st Century Astronomy Career Track, Unconscious Bias, and What Men Can Do to Help Women Succeed in Astronomy.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…