### Liveblogging Joan Schmelz on Unconcious Bias

Joan Schmelz, the chair of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, is here at the CfA to talk about Unconscious Bias, Stereotype Threat & Impostor Syndrome. I'll be liveblogging the event.

The Pratt Conference Room room is standing-room only! The audience is predominantly female in composition, but the Astro dept chair Avi Loeb and the CfA director Charles Alcock are in attendance. Awes! Lot's of students, too, including the REU summer interns, and many grad students.

Unconscious bias: men and women both unconsciously devalue the contributions of women. We're in this together! No finger-pointing in this room.

Stereotype Thread: The anxiety that [minorities] face in a situation where they have the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their group. This anxiety alone can result in documented cases of lower scores on standardized...tests.

Side note: Sociologists consider 30% to be the critical mass for a minority group to make inroads. We have been at 30% women at the postdoc level for over a decade, and the percentage is increasing at the asst. prof level.

Impostor Syndrome: The inability to believe in one's own competence which causes the individual to live in fear of being "found out."

Advice: Give two-fer talks, with one science talk and one diversity talk per visit per institution. Men, too! Use unconscious bias to your advantage: the audience will be more receptive to this message coming from men. AAUW has excellent collection of slides and prepared text just for this purpose. Guess what I'll be doing in the near future.

Also, watch out for Joan's series of posts to appear on the CSWA blog.

Unconscious Bias

We all want a meritocracy. So we should be aware of and address bias.

- Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke conducted an experiment. The convened mock hiring committees comprising men and women. They are given two applications, one from Karen and Brian. Committees preferred Brian to Karen 2:1. But the CVs were identical! (note that no committee saw both Karen and Brian. The got one or the other, with the name being the only difference). Also, when evaluating for a more senior (tenured) position, Brian got the nod 4x as often!

- Similar experiment by Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) for John and Jennifer, evaluated for a lab manager position. On a score scale of 1-7, John scored 4.0 and Jennifer got an average of 3.3. John also got a much higher starting salary (~15% higher). Only difference was gender. This test was done across academic discipline of the hiring committee. Biology, Physics, Chem, etc.

Whoa! Where does this bias come from? Answer: A legacy of patriarchy.

Question from audience: How did they control for differences among committees?
Joan: Sociologists know statistics better than astronomers :) Be sure to read the articles for details of the methodology and data. I'm only presenting the highlights here.

Question from audience: What about anonymous applicants? Can that help the situation?
Joan: Difficult in a small community like astronomy, where we can guess the identity based on the contents of the proposal. Tough problem!
Comment from audience: For papers, referees want to know the identity to judge based on his/her record. (Discussion breaking out in audience on gender-neutral language).
Avi Loeb: Perhaps the best way to address this bias to make it explicit.
Joan: Exactly! This is why the current discussion is so heartening!

Joan: Relates a personal story of discovering her own unconscious bias in the process of reviewing proposals one year. Eye-opening process! Upon first review, the only two women in the dozens of proposals were ranked lowest. Upon reevaluation, the men's scores stayed put, but the women's scores moved to the midpack (not the best, but not the worst). The chair of the CSWA suffered from unconscious bias!

[discussion continues in the room! We haven't moved past slide ~10!]

If you think you are excepted, check out the Implicit Association Test! (readers: take the test today!)

Men and women both undervalue the contribution of women. Whites and non-whites undervalue the contribution of non-whites (Americans that is).

Stereotype Threat

Students selected based on excellent math SAT test.

Group 1: Test given under normal GRE conditions
Group 2: Group is explicitly told that test is "unbiased" and "gender neutral"

No difference in the exams!

Group 1: men and women got same average score
Group 2: women did much better than men!

On the SAT, the women got scores equal to the men, but with stereotype threat. On the GRE "test" there was no stereotype threat, so they performed at their true level, which was higher on average than the men in the experiment!

Again, the only difference was the statement that the test was "gender neutral" (see Why So Few report for more info)

Impostor Syndrome

STATUS Magazine (2011), see my post here.

Whoa! Joan is now citing my blog post on Impostor Syndrome!

Running short on time, so moving forward quickly:

• Two-body problem
• Work-life balance
• Sexual harassment
• Unconscious bias
Closes with an image of the cross-section of an onion. The middle is the science we're all after. The outermost layers are "Overt Discrimination," "Sexual Harassment." The latter changed with Anita Hill's bravery. Next layers are the topics of this talk: Unconscious bias, stereotype threat, impostor syndrome. We're dealing with these now. Next layers after that is work-life balance, two-body problem (solution!).

We hope that as we peel back the current layers that there won't be any more in the way of our pursuit of science as a meritocracy.

### 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…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### 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…