Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Stereotype Trap (CogTales blog)

That women in science and in the professional world in general are subject to gender biases with real consequences (lower pay, less career opportunities) goes without saying.
In this context, I find it important to be aware of how easy it is to be biased myself. Not in order to justify, but to better understand. I have recently made two experiences with my own and fellow female researchers’ biases, in situations where I somewhat slipped into a man’s skin.
Now, slapping on my man skin aka MetaLab poster for the BCCCD conference, I got one female researcher who looked, mumbled  “Oh, oh, this looks complicated!”, and left. There was another one who actually started talking to me but who stated, before I could even open my mouth: “I am not sure I will understand this. It looks very difficult.” Granted, this is a sample of N=2 (although Christina just told me that she got similar reactions exclusively by women on a similar poster recently), and there were many others that did not say anything like this. Nevertheless, I had never gotten any such reaction on any other project. So man skin experience #1 showed me a few examples of women having a that’s-too-complicated-for-me-bias against themselves.
Well, you might say, this man skin isn’t too convincing. But I have an even better one. It’s my first name. First names ending in ‘o’ are, across many cultures, associated with men rather than women. I think I first got painfully aware of this when the Russian family friend persistently called me “Shoa”, because he just didn’t want to deal with the fact that a little girl’s name ended with an “o”. Fast-forward, and I keep receiving an uncountable amount of mail addressed to “Mr./Herr/Dhr./M. Tsuji”, and recently this involuntary man skin, actually in combination with the MetaLab man skin, culminated in me being imagined as an “over 40-year-old single guy who watches porn movies in his free time.”

Read the full post here.

1 comment:

  1. The female scientist had been in email contact with me with regards to contributing information to MetaLab. When we met surprisingly, she let me know she had envisioned me to be said single person, and, so I comprehended, among others since she had, in her psyche, contrasted a man that deliberately picks with work on contributing several papers into spreadsheets and afterward dissecting them to some male developer associates of hers.

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