Black History Month & the importance of mentors.

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*PLEASE NOTE A CHANGE IN DATE**: We will hold the Journal Club discussion on Friday, 24 February to accommodate the AAAS conference. Although we recommend amplifying the voices of your colleagues of color at the conference! Tweet their talks at us under #DiversityJC!

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC

 

For our February Diversity Journal Club, we wanted to pick a topic that allowed us to celebrate Black History Month – so in our case, black scientists in STEM fields.

You know, a regular complaint about Black History Month is the question, “well, where’s white history month?”

 

The answer, of course, is white history month is every other month of the year.

 

This is made clear when we think about the history of science we teach ourselves, and the role models we use to demonstrate who contributes most to the advancement of science. Overwhelmingly, we focus on white scientists of European descent. Every month is white history month.

 

Downplaying and downright ignoring black scientists has repercussions. It is hard to overstate the importance of role models and mentors. In being able to see people like you doing the job you aspire to. That people like you belong there and you will be valued in that career. This is one way we can increase inclusion in science – by having diverse role models.

For this Black History Month Diversity Journal Club, we’ll be looking at research that demonstrates black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (the work is also discussed by Inside Higher Ed). We also encourage you to read about the importance of mentors for minority students (some examples here and here).

Please join us to discuss this research and the importance of mentors who look like you, as well as celebrating and sharing the stories of black scientists that serve as role models for all of us.

 

See you Friday, 24 February at 2pm Eastern time!

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs.

 

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Lisa attempts to Teach Homer about misinformation and logical fallacies and inadvertently spreads misinformation about tiger-prevention rocks. Via Frinkiac. From The Simpsons S7E23 “Much Apu About Nothing”, Fox Studios.

Diversity JC has a Twitter handle: @Diversity_JC. The three of us will tweet relevant things and one of us will moderate discussions from the account. We also have out newsletter that you can subscribe to

**NOTE:** Our first discussion of 2017 has been moved to Thursday January 19 at 2pm Eastern Time due to the inauguration and the potential for people to be traveling to protests on the 21st. We’ll discuss this paper, The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions (pdf).

There’s been a lot written and said this past few months about reconciling the “post-truth” world with the one many of us in science believe we live in: the one of data, facts, and science.

  • Where confirmation bias is minimized and not everything is evidence of conspiracy.
  • Where our own beliefs are self-interrogated and, at the same time, aren’t held so tightly that any contradictory evidence, real or imagined, continues rationalizing of  misconceptions, instead of new dialogue.
  • Where vetted sources are trusted by many – instead of groups that decide to listen or not based on vague principles instead of facts, and anything perceived as a challenge to one’s identity or even requires change is met with resistance or outright denial.

Inclusiveness in academia is not immune to this trend: There are those that simply deny there’s a problem or see it as a challenge to their identity in some way.

Our Diversity Journal Club aims to not only discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, but to make a difference. We also hope to provide a way to engage for those that haven’t discussed these topics in the past, and want to learn and listen. There is evidence that an open conversation telling people directly about lived experiences works to combat misperceptions. Yet we need people to come to the table first – to admit the need for discussion and change.

As Brianna Wu points out in this Twitter thread (& many others have as well), facts do not really matter when trying to convince people:

Even Galileo in letters to The Duchess of Tuscany was aware of entrenched beliefs that are hard to get through, even if the facts are on your side:

These men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply with little judgement to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.

Galileo used a telescope to observe “new worlds” (moons) around Jupiter. 500 years later, NASA/JPL scientists have further confirmed that observation in unprecedented detail with the Juno mission’s time lapse as it approached and entered orbit around Jupiter. Some scientists argue that exploring nature in greater and greater detail reveals the magnificence of creation, putting a religious narrative structure on why they love science and exploration. The religious story as a way to relate science may not be given by scientists, however, as Dudo and Besley found that scientists in their survey put the lowest priority (& thought their colleagues did too) on tailoring narratives (Dudo and Besley, 2016, open access).

This month in #DiversityJC we’ll discuss this publication by DJ Flynn, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler “The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs about Politics” (pdf).

The paper concludes:

If the conclusions reached so far are correct, however, the threat of misperceptions to democracy cannot be avoided, especially in the highly polarized world of contemporary American politics. Facts are always at least potentially vulnerable to directional motivated reasoning, especially when they are politicized by elites. The polarization that our politics must confront is thus not just over issues and public policy, but over reality itself.

The paper delves into political misperceptions, however, similar principles apply to issues of inclusion and diversity issues in STEM (and beyond). There are entrenched beliefs that increasing inclusion means losing something for those currently in positions of power and influence. To name one misperception.

It is long article, but  the most relevant sections in order of appearance are The introduction, The definition of misperceptions, The effects of misperceptions and corrective information, and Why misperceptions matter for democracy, and the conclusion.

Deficit models don’t work. People come to new information with prior knowledge that can be persistent, and messages not tailored to specific audiences can easily fall flat, as Southern Fried Science recently addressed regarding climate change. The communicator and the message can both matter when correcting misinformation. Some evidence suggests starting with the misperception and filling it with the correct information can be effective (though it takes effort on the part of the person absorbing new information). However, delivering it in a narrative/story form is likely to be most effective. It shouldn’t be shocking that learning is a social process and what matters is what goes on inside the head of the learner.

There also has to be a way for a story to resonate with an intended audience. Identifying that may be especially challenging, as Flynn et al. point out.

The questions we’ll be having in mind and stories we’d like to hear are:

  1. Have you had experienced actually changing someone’s mind on an issue of Diversity/inclusion? Or changed someone’s mind on another STEM topic (like climate change)?
  2. How do we best connect with those expressing strong disagreement? (& are there people that genuinely seem more open to hearing the other side of an argument than others?
  3. How important is it to continue ‘preaching to the choir’ and is there a value in doing so?
  4. What narratives work best with social/inclusion/diversity issues that can appear invisible? With a social issue like inclusion/diversity that may not be seen as solidly researched as say, established physics, are there narratives that work better or worse than others? What has been your experience?
  5. How do you stay open to new ideas/hearing another perspective?

Join us for DiversityJC on Friday, January 20 at 2pm ET! 

@Diversity_JC is:

Ian – @IHStreet

Emily – @DrEmilySKlein

Doctor_PMS – @Doctor_PMS
PS- One thing we should all start to be mindful of is not sharing fake news ourselves, especially be careful if it confirms what you already believe. Here is one list of ways to spot – and then not share- fake news stories (and find what the actual story might be and share that instead).

2016 #DiversityJC – Emily’s Year End Review

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It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In these first 2017 posts, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Ian’s post is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.

 

I avoided writing my DiversityJC year-end review for weeks. Sure, I was busy with work, and then with family and friends and the holidays. But… I also didn’t really know what to write. 

Revisiting anything in 2016 seems… completely overshadowed by the US election. The incoming president. His cabinet picks.


I was derailed by this election. Absolutely and completely. I didn’t do any work for days – weeks even. And I know that’s one of my own forms of privilege – the ability to press pause while I grieved and clicked on links and read posts and tried to make sense of what happened, what to do next. And wept.

While I’ve been back to work (clearly), I’ve still been struggling to come back to social media. Aside from the easy, escapist space of Instagram, my online presence since November has comes in strange fits and starts.  Engaging seemed at once inconsequential, given what has happened (and will happen), and all-encompassing – I have been absent for days to weeks from Twitter, but posted long-winded statements and questions on Facebook, laying aside research to obsessively follow and respond to the conversation that resulted.


Eventually, I found myself in this place where I was completely torn. On the one hand, I feel like I am not doing enough to prepare and to fight what is happening, what is going to happen – on the other, starkly aware of the risks to my own research should I take any more time away.

I was desperate for some time, some space to regain my balance. To see clearly my way forward. More days were lost as I spun my wheels.


Over the holidays, I was finally able to carve out a little of that time, that space. Not much, but some. I also relied on the voices of those more eloquent than myself:

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: “Re-framing Ocean Conservation in this Post-Election Era”
Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman: “Why I am Committed to Fighting Oppression in Academia”


I also finally sat down to review the topics our Diversity Journal Club has addressed in 2016 – which was strangely challenging. I am so focused on what’s next, on 2017 – and, as I mentioned, it’s been really tough for me to look back at … Before. It already feels like another era.

But what I realized as I read over our recaps and intros that ruminated on why women leave STEM, whether we can overlook someone’s behavior in light of their achievement, on toxic masculinity and Nobel prizes and how bias and the imposter syndrome are connectedall of these things remain critical. Their importance as examples of why inclusion and diversity matter, how they translate into the science I love so much, the science that loves to believe it is objective and above such social ills – these matter not less but more in the coming months.

We also started out 2016 talking about what “diversity” means. That conversation had me reading some posts that were challenging and eye-opening (for me anyway), and thinking about why diversity matters beyond being the right thing to do. We also discussed what it means to be an ally, and why Orlando is poignant not just for us as people, as citizens, but also as scientists.


These conversations are still a form of activism – a critical one. We must continue to highlight and share the science that shows us how much inclusion matters, and that the scientific community is not above or immune to the societal ills of prejudice and bias. We must continue to talk more broadly about what diversity and inclusion look like, how social justice cannot end at a lab or office or classroom door. We must continue to educate ourselves and each other. If this election proved one thing, it’s that we need to listen more, educate more, engage more.

This is a crucial way forward in this new political climate. Conversations like those we have under #DiversityJC are more important than ever.


In the end, as 2017 rapidly approaches like a freight train, my answer came clearly one night as I lay fretting and awake: I simply resolve to work harder. One thing that becomes more obvious the older I get is that there are indeed no do-overs. We have this time, now. That is it. We don’t other chances. It sounds cliche and trite – but it also seems more true now than it ever has to me before.


My research will get done, but I also turn more attention and more effort to my To Do list – not just in the weeks following November 4th, but from here until we go back in the election booth in 2018, and in 2020. And beyond – bias and discrimination do not end along party lines. I am focused on a job that values and allows for social justice work as an explicit part of the package. I want to do good science – but I want to make science better even more.

Discussions as part of the Diversity Journal Club hold a central place for me to forward my own education, as I push my career in new directions, and, I hope, the education of others. I hope more people share the research and topics we look to cover in the coming months, more join us. I hope to post more here, too – to put this space to good use.


Our work is just beginning.

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Albert Einstein: he was an introvert. What about you?

It Does Matter, and We Have Work To Do: Post-election recap, Part II.

Speaking of using social media for good, some very important tweets from our #DiveristyJC discussion on the election. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

First, don’t allow people to tell you this, or that these things don’t matter to you:

Instead….

And we have to keep pushing on social justice in our scientific institutions.

For more on what you can do… stay tuned.

What’s next?

We had a journal article picked out for November’s discussion. We had the introduction written.

 

Then, you know, the election happened.

 

We got a bit sidetracked. Given that the good Doctor and Ian can’t make our discussion time anyway, I decided I’m changing things.

I believe that this is a wake-up call for us on so many levels, in so many ways. I believe we can use our legitimate fear and anxiety and anger for good. I believe we need time and space to process and understand what happened.

I believe we need each other for all of these things.

Our next DiversityJC discussion (under #DiversityJC) is next Friday, 18 November at 2pm Eastern Time. To focus, I welcome dialogue on

  1. What we think happened to bring about the outcome (we’re scientists, so bring your evidence please),
  2. Our fears specifically for diversity in STEM fields, and
  3. What we plan to do about both avoiding #1 in the future, and to address #2.

I know this is basically open-ended, and I do agree with Ian when he said getting back to focused discussions about diversity and inclusion are important for moving forward, but indulge me. If nothing else, I’ll be using the time to really focus in on my own thoughts. By myself. Also cool with that.

Take care, take care of each other, and be safe.

Emily
Ian
Doctor PMS

Recap- Toxic Masculinity

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We have to know one another and ourselves, even our shadows. Source. Photo by Nick Page. CC-BY 2.0.

We discussed toxic masculinity in our last discussion.

On the Infactorium blog this past week, Dr24hrs wrote a post called ‘Responsibilities of a third millenium man’. He addresses a lot of how the masculinity is changing and broadening. It’s also about broadening the definition of what is considered valuable. Right now, what are thought of as traditionally masculine values/characteristics remain valued and legitimized a lot more than others. It’s not quite a success if women can succeed, but only if they ‘act like men’.

In addition, there is also a documentary that explores masculinity:

It was pointed out at the end of our discussion that the term ‘toxic masculinity‘ might not be the best to convince men to change.

I’m somewhat sympathetic to that point– it’s important to avoid labeling people and assuming that is the end of the story. However, there is a real problem with how many men behave around and treat women. This is a world where when women win book prizes, sexist ideas about why come up in prominent publications. Donald Trump demeans women regularly (and yes, he may be an extreme case for the long-term and public nature it). It’s a world of Brock Turner and many other men getting off easily with criminal behavior. These are things that are toxic to wide parts of society, and largely result from the behavior of men that is toxic. It needs to be called out as such.

It’s also the case that toxic masculinity discourages inclusiveness:

The tropes do exist. I couldn’t help but think the (new-to-me term) misogynoir stereotype of the ‘strong black woman’ bears some similarities to what is stereotypical masculinity as well – though experienced very differently, obviously.

Emily’s thread at the end sums things up well and echoes The Infactorium post I linked above well (click through for the whole thing):

The fact is it’s still hard to discuss masculinity, especially among men. Broadening what is valued by men to be more inclusive is important too, and is also a challenging discussion to have. Yet it is worth studying, having the discussion, and even having a scholarly discipline dedicated to it. Almost everything else has an area of scholarship, it strikes me as a privileged position for masculinity not to be studied too. That doesn’t mean other areas that already exist like medicine and science need to double down to study men more since they have been the default study subjects forever and do need to focus more on other un-represented groups.

The toxicity of masculinity might come from outward behaviors, but it is also just toxic because the discussions can’t be had. They’re toxic. As the social work researcher Brene Brown has said, we’re a culture afraid of vulnerability and shame and that is in no small part because men have an outsize influence in our culture and see being vulnerable as weakness even though it isn’t.

Thanks to all who participated in #DiversityJC last month. And look forward to our next topic later this month.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Why do women leave STEM?

Reminder that you can be kept up to date and get #DiversityJC content delivered to you by subscribing to our newsletter that comes out 1-2x each month.

The #DiversityJC discussion will happen on Friday, April 22, from 2-3pm ET.

Last month, we talked about being being an ally.

This month we’re going to discuss a topic that follows on that and discuss why women leave their chosen career paths – in STEM or otherwise, as this is observed and studied beyond science.

Spoiler alert: it may well not be the reason you think. Compensation is a big factor, as it is for men.

Related to unfair compensation is of course, culture. A new study found that our common ideas about science, women, and men may mean we “perceive women as incompatible” with science. The exception to this was when the survey takers were at a women’s college where the bias disappeared. Think Progress has a write up of the study.

More evidence? Sure. Paige Jarreau recently wrote about how even facts can’t convince people about gender bias, citing a 2015 study that explored comments on Discover Magazine and the New York Times articles on studies demonstrating gender bias. While a majority of comments in the study were positive, those that were negative were really negative, and these, especially from men, simply denied the facts presented or justified the system as was (i.e. women aren’t “built” for science…).

Also recent and related, research has found women are penalized for promoting diversity. For men, it’s of no benefit, but does no harm either. This is yet another example that could well contribute to women leaving STEM. Even if allies exist, they may not be sufficient in a system with a lot of in-built biases as this story about Dr. Nettie Stevens, a 19th-20th century Geneticist shows. Stevens had at least one supportive ally in Thomas Hunt Morgan– a rock star of genetics as we might say today, but nowhere else.

This month on #DiversityJC, we’ll look collectively to this recent research and discuss findings, and ask – why do women leave STEM careers?

If you were a woman in STEM but left the traditional academic career path, what is your story for why/how you left?

How do you feel about it now?

If you are/were a woman in STEM, do the above studies and stories resonate with your experiences?

If you are/were a man working in STEM – do you see evidence, as well? What have you witnessed – and what of the experiences of your friends, colleagues, and significant others?

If facts aren’t sufficient, what else might work to promote inclusion in STEM?

Join us for the discussion on April 22, 2-3pm ET!

@IHStreet

@DrEmilySKlein

@Doctor_PMS