Skip to main content

Why are there so few women (and minority) professors?

From Dr. (and soon to be Prof) Cullen Blake:
I really liked your blog post about the Moss-Racusin PNAS discrimination paper. It's been really great to see how much attention this paper has generated for this super-important issue in our field. A few of these types of studies have been done before, including one by my wife Katy Milkman. The Moss-Racusin study had a very small sample, as well as non-representative participants who were informed that they were participating in a study, and the study considered discrimination by academics toward people applying for a non-academic position. Katy's study involves many thousands of representative faculty participants interacting naturally with prospective doctoral students, and it is able to look at relative rates of discrimination not only against women but also minorities across different departments and types of schools.
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3079
I'm very interested! This is an amazing study based on the rate at which emails from prospective students are ignored, and requests for meetings are denied. You should read the writeup in the link above, but here's the summary table of the results:
[When emailed one week in advance of a proposed meeting (N=3,241), rates at which professors ignored or declined prospective PhD students’ requests to meet as a function of student race and gender.]
Surprisingly, the bias here breaks down along racial/ethnic lines, with the strongest bias against Indian and Chinese students. I can't really speak to that bias very well, but the bias against black and hispanic students is a real bummer!

This denial of entry compounds other problems that black students encounter. The biggest barrier, in my experience, is with black students facing strong, rigid hierarchies within science. Unlike students from affluent, college-educated families, students from poorer, underrepresented groups typically grow up learning not to question authority. "Don't talk back!" is the most likely response to a black child correcting an adult on factual knowledge, or even attempting to express what they know. This means that black students tend to be very quite, shy and reserved when confronted with a rigid hierarchy or when surrounded by elders.

Fortunately, I had a mentor in college who simultaneously taught me to take ownership of my education and to speak up when I feel I'm right. He taught me how to use my "physics voice" in order to assert myself, and how to not back down when I feel I am correct, even if people "above" me disagree. He taught me how to introduce myself to others with a clear voice while looking people in the eye.

This helped me once the door was open. Until reading this study by Milkman and collaborators, I don't think I recognized how hard it was to open doors in the first place!

Comments

AlphaCenBeebee said…
I wish I had your advisor :)

Just my personal opinion, but...when you're part of a minority (ethnic, gender, sexual, etc.) you have to be quite a bit more assertive and self-confident to overcome at least partially the worse hand you've been dealt. If you don't, and you're still internalizing years of being looked down upon because of you're differences, you're toast in science given the importance of networking and personality. Ideally, the strength of your ideas and your ability to communicate should be all that counts; unfortunately, judging by the times I've been talked over, interrupted, dismissed in the face of my being obviously right just this week, it is not nearly enough.

I guess I have no tricks up my sleeve left when you're looking in the eyes and explaining something, and the person you're speaking to starts to talk with someone else.

Popular posts from this blog

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 started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from NBA.com, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:


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

\begin{equation}
x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)
\end{equation}

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…