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      Randy Olson

      CHRISTINA LUHN & DIANNA PADILLA: Reply to Question From Two Women

      In a previous session, this question was posed in the chat log:

      Marlis Douglas and Ilsa Kuffner:
      Any advice on how women should pitch the “BUT” controversy – they generally are perceived much more negatively using the same approaches as male counterparts in politics or science (e.g., self-deprecating interpreted as ‘humble’ in men versus ‘incompetent’ in women)

      I decided to defer to our experts for their answers.  Here is the answer of Dianna Padilla (who joined us for the session on the ABT in Science).   To view the reply of Christina Luhn (who joined us for the session on the ABT in Politics) click here.

      DIANNA PADILLA (Professor of Evolutionary Biology)

      DIANNA: In academia and in science in general:

      Bias regarding women is pervasive – both by men and by women
      We have seen very little if any change through time, even though women make up an increasing proportion of scientists (but decreasing proportions toward the top that has not changed in the last 30 years)
      There is an ever growing body of research showing the impact of implicit bias against women (and minorities) in science in general, everything from ratings on grants, reviewing peer reviewed publications, as well as hiring and promotion. Both women and men have implicit bias against women and minorities.
      But, it has also been shown that implicit bias is reduced when both men and women are reminded that it clouds our perceptions, but this effect fades through time. Therefore, agencies like NSF now frequently have implicit bias training before every review panel. Both men and women need to be aware – then maybe we can change things.

      What to do?
      Don’t be surprised by it or caught off guard by it. If you are emotionally prepared it is easier to deal with. And when it does not happen you can be delightfully surprised

      In communication – Things you can train yourself to do
      Avoid “um” – this is a spacer your mouth uses while your brain catches up. Try pausing until you get the right word rather than saying um. No one notices that extra little pause, but they do notice the um. Up makes one sound unconvincing, or unsure of what one is saying.

      Something many women do is raise the tone of their voice at the end of a sentence (as one does when asking a question). Many women do this. Again, it makes one sound less convinced of what one is saying.

      The “but” is less often considered a weakness or negative if it is immediately followed by a solution – that is where “therefore” comes in.

      Practice so you are comfortable talking in front of people. Reread and rewrite your written communication to make sure it is the best it can be. Read written work out loud – our ears are better editors than our eyes. Get feedback from colleagues on written communications and oral presentations.

      Is this fair? Absolutely not. Will it change in the future? We can only hope and, like racism, we all have to work to try to make change happen.

      When I was an Assistant Professor a friend gave me a button that said “To succeed women have to be 25% better than men. Thankfully, it is not that hard”.

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