Recap- Toxic Masculinity

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)

Toxic Masculinity.

Masculinity can be more than one shade of gray. Credit: Josh Hallet, Flickr, CC2.0

This month in Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC on Friday, 16 September, 2pm ET), we’ll be discussion this New York Times Column about teaching men to be emotionally honest.

And take it from me (Ian). It is hard to be emotionally open with other men– with everyone, really. Even those we know well.

One example of toxic masculinity is that article about the “advice” on a website about approaching women wearing headphones (the actual answer: don’t).

Andrew Reiner poses this question and assignment to his class on masculinity:

But wouldn’t encouraging men to embrace the full range of their humanity benefit women? Why do we continue to limit the emotional lives of males when it serves no one? This question is the rhetorical blueprint I pose to students before they begin what I call the “Real Man” experiment.

In this assignment, students engage strangers to explore, firsthand, the socialized norms of masculinity and to determine whether these norms encourage a healthy, sustainable identity.

The models men have in the United States are stoic, strong, favor action over contemplation, and most importantly, show no vulnerability. They may or may not also be angry, a facade of strength.

The radio show Backstory aired an episode about The American Work Ethic over labor day weekend. This episode brings up something key to (US) masculinity: Hard work. Providing. And an idea that seems increasingly less true: that hard work will pay off and be rewarded. The recession in 2008 and the slow recovery, and economic insecurity that still exists for many has left men with few outlets to express their vulnerability– and anger and abuse can come out instead.

Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability talks about how our culture- even women- often have a hard time hearing men being vulnerable and expressing emotion to their partners or loved ones. As she says, if a woman can sit with a man in true vulnerability, she’ll be showing you a woman that has done some real work (& yes, she has a reverse as well, where men really have to work at just listening to women and not trying to instantly fix everything).

Andrew Reiner notes that men commit suicide at 4 times the rate women do, are not as academically accomplished as women now, and as teenagers socially more unable to connect with others. That can also persist into adulthood.

Too many men are still walled off, isolated, and learn a form of masculinity where the only emotion acceptable is anger.

The Note to Self podcast had an episode with Lead parent, and Dad, Andrew Moravcsik, husband of Anna Marie Slaughter (who wrote the ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have it All’), about how we think about parenting, and integrating our work and home lives, having men being caretakers, a role still not traditional in the US. He points out how being lead ‘dad’, and how it has to be legitimized. He points out how some of the language and treatment of men as caretakers is akin to bias against women in the workplace (basically that there’s a perception that men can’t handle the school schedules, PTA meetings, etc- though they just haven’t been given opportunity to do so).

Similarly, men’s feelings, besides outrage, need to be able to come into the light and be legitimate (especially to other men).

If you want an example of what opening up, vulnerability, men talking about very real things with each other might look like, listen to this short Story Corps story: Guardians of The Gate where two Golden Gate Bridge workers talk about their job & pivot to talking about a really hard aspect of their job, encountering people intending to jump– it goes to my core and makes me cry every time I listen to it. These two have been colleagues and friends for 25 years.

So that’s what we’ll talk about this month in #DiversityJC on September 16 at 2pm ET.

How can we detoxify this form of masculinity Reiner writes about?

Who are men we might hold up as role models for men to emulate?

How do we legitimize and allow men to express themselves more often & to whom?

And what do you wish men knew about how their emotional distance and isolation translates to biases and abuse of women (& anyone else for that matter).

See you on the 16th.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Emily S Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

Don’t take out your headphones.

Credit: Takumi Yoshida, FlickrCC2.0

This week saw ‘The Modern Man’, a website apparently dedicated to giving (horrible) tips to men about meeting women out in the world.

The post that got a lot of attention on Twitter was one with tips to talk to a woman with earbuds or headphones firmly in place. You can read about one reaction from The Guardian here.

I don’t understand people- men in this case- that don’t take headphones as universal symbol of ‘don’t bother me’. Similar to people with nose-in-computer at the library of coffee shop. Presumably, most people aren’t like me and have times when they are more open to talking to strangers.

I get it. I’m a single guy. It’s not a ton of fun sometimes, but forcing conversation on someone that is sending a signal of ‘don’t interrupt’ with earbuds in does not endear you to that person.

If I get interrupted, it takes me a long time to refocus. And that is probably the least of it. Women get approached all the time, get catcalled, and otherwise get a lot of unwanted attention all the time. Just listen in on Twitter sometime, it gets talked about there a lot.

So what’s the alternative? Like many things in life, there aren’t shortcuts. Be someone worth getting to know. Pursue your interests. Meet people that share them. Things will grow from that. The more seeds you plant, the better.

Sleazily dehumanizing and treating women like objects is unacceptable.

Meeting people tends to happen spontaneously and organically. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin recently learned how to meet strangers in New York City, none of which involved interrupting people with earbuds. Hamblin’s a little forced, but then, he was doing a video on a deadline with a somewhat artificial set up. Meet-cutes, instant connections, etc. might happen, but the instant it’s forced, something has gone wrong (and clearly, Hamblin was not making any new best friends– and its’ impossible for me to tell whether he’s playing a character or is genuinely being himself).

If you’re not looking for long-term relationships/love to spring and just want to be part of a lots of short flings, there are communities dedicated to that. Look there, not everywhere. And not to people in earbuds or who are at work. If you want to know how ridiculous a workplace where everyone hooks up with everyone else is, there’s a podcast you should listen to.

Yes, the world is connection starved. It isn’t helped by a culture of masculinity that dictates that connecting is a bad thing. That showing vulnerability is not OK drives that disconnectedness. And so we get blog posts recommending men interrupt women that are obviously signaling they don’t want to be interrupted just then.

There are better times, places, and manners to connect. Learn those. Practice those. The world will be better for it.

In our topic post this month, DiversityJC will discuss models of masculinity and just how they don’t serve us well as the ‘headphones’ article illustrates. Look for that post next week.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).





#DiversityJC Global.

Doctor_PMS, Emily, and I have been talking about how the DiversityJC can better engage the scientific community. We believe our topics are important for all of us, and we need to hear from as much of the community as we can.

See, all three of us are on the East Coast of the United States and we have the live discussions when it works for us – on Eastern time, 2pm, the 3rd Friday of the month. But. While that may cover most of the US, Canada, Mexico, Central, and South America in day-time time zones… it excludes a lot of the world from participating.

That’s not fully engaging the scientific community. That’s only engaging part of the scientific community.

We’re also a bit language limited; to English. Again – that’s only part of the scientific community.

Image credit:  Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Given that we focus on diversity and inclusion, we aren’t very diverse. We’re pretty biased in the people we reach – and therefore the discussions we have. Especially on our topics here, we need to make sure more of us can participate. We’re pretty sure these issues are global, not just US-centered, but that requires global conversations.

To do something about this, we’d like to expand the DiversityJC to reach other people in different time zones and different parts of the world: we need volunteers to host a DiversityJC discussion on Twitter at a convenient local time and language for participants in your part of the world. This will broaden the discussion about diversity in STEM fields and build the community of people discussing diversity and inclusion topics.

Are you or someone you know interested in diversity and inclusion, and active on social media? Interested in moderating DiversityJC conversations in your community?

We want to make it easy to help. We’ll still write up the topic towards the beginning of each month and send out the newsletter to let everyone know what that topic is (and we’re always open to suggestions/ideas/guest posters, just get in touch with us). We also try to have suggested questions for each discussion in the introductory post.

Your job would be to tweet out our topics when it’s convenient and in the language you’ll use for conversation, and get the conversation started. After, we’d ask you to put together a Storify or description post of your discussion and send it onto us. We’ll post it here on the blog/include it in the newsletter.

If you’re willing to be one of our global facilitators get in touch on Twitter (@IHStreet, @DrEmilySKlein, @Doctor_PMS), email us (, or leave a note in the comments here. Be a part of expanding the discussions about making academia a better, more inclusive community for all.

Ian Street
Emily S Klein

Re-cap: Why do women leave STEM?

Why do women leave STEM? We asked this question for our Diversity JC discussion on April 22nd.

First, by framing the discussion using this question, we (mostly me– Ian), didn’t really think about the fact that many people who leave the traditional STEM path don’t necessarily go that far– often ending up in STEM-adjacent careers, and still considering themselves a part of STEM. Perhaps we should call it the expanded STEM universe (ESTEMU).

Yet the fact remains that there are real barriers for women in STEM – even the ESTEMU. It’s true in almost all professional careers to one degree or another; as we’ve pointed out before (for example the discussion here), this is a cultural problem broader than just STEM.

However, DiversityJC is squarely focused on STEM, and this discussion was on how, perhaps in particular to STEM fields, more women than average leave the traditional academic path of Ph.D. to postdoc to the Tenure Track (compared to other career paths). Though as Melanie pointed out, a key point is that this trend isn’t unique to just the tenure track, and as Needhi elaborated, it was also along more than just gender lines:

The point is, the culture in STEM fields remains narrow, almost always defining success by tenure, grants, and publications (and little else despite all the other things academics do), and the stereotypical scientist is still white and male (until people actually meet some scientists and realize we’re actually not any one thing, other than perhaps universally curious! Check #thisiswhatascientistlookslike). Fitting in to this culture can be very challenging when you don’t reflect conventional expectations or value something outside conventional goals. This especially impacts women – and minorities. There is evidence for hope, particularly in the life sciences where women are half of Ph.D.s and almost half of postdocs now. However, these trends have yet to translate into professorships or other leadership positions, and women are less likely to be tenured and more likely to be in adjunct level positions where they are paid less, and therefore incur more debt, than men – trends that are not changing (these are all, of course, in addition to the cultural problems present at the Ph.D. and postdoc levels, and beyond).

Despite its central place in the traditional definition of success we argue here, the tenure track is becoming less and less likely for the majority of scholars regardless of gender. This is certainly a contributing factor for some women leaving STEM. In addition to fewer positions, smaller pools of money also mean that even for those part of a major discovery early in their careers – CRISPR, say– where success may be more likely, it is still far from assured. Even if you’re a scientist who also contributes to op-eds to the New York Times and writes a book about your time in science, funding is still hard to come by:

Increasingly, successful scientists are also successful at getting money. Yet being “able to compete” often still means those central goals of tenure and publishing – areas where women also experience bias (like this crazy example). The poor economics of academia on top of implicit biases (etc) are a hard combination to deal with throughout ones career.

In addition, like attaining tenure, acquiring money only rewards certain types of success – and negates others, like working for social justice, engaging in outreach, or caring for family members. This tied in with the majority of our conversation: the definition of success in science is too narrow to be inclusive of other life goals and commitments, and in consequence excludes people, including women, from STEM.

What can be done? We must address the disparity in pay and reasons why the greater numbers of women in college aren’t translating to higher paid positions, as well as sexism, harassment, and assault. Support networks are also important and some in our discussion reported having good networks that include more than just their immediate advisors. Even a Twitter network can be a supportive place. Developing, engaging in, and sustaining these networks, across gender lines, can be hugely helpful moving forward.

In addition, from a broad perspective, our discussion collectively revealed a deeper truth: the present values of STEM aren’t broad or inclusive enough, and this does drive women, and minorities, from the field. Our discussion made clear there is a need for an expanded definition of what we value in STEM as a field, and what it means to succeed there. We need to do better at understanding and valuing the intersection of science and humanity – whether that is via interdisciplinary research, outreach and education, or social justice work. We also need to note that it’s not work-life balance, but it rather that scientists have lives. As part of this, it is critical we acknowledge that the previous narrative of the workaholic scientist is outdated – not only because we have lives, but also because it likely meant that scientist had a wife at home to support him.

Finally, as we mentioned and connected to these points, when women do leave STEM graduate schools, postdocs, or professorships, it seems they often don’t go too far– at least not right away. Once a scientist, always a scientist. We need to recognize that leaving the traditional academic track does not actually mean leaving STEM. Especially with fewer tenured jobs and available grants, it’s time we realize there is more we can do with a PhD in the ESTEMU– and beyond.

Join us on May 20, 2pm ET for our discussion. and subscribe to the DiversityJC newsletter to keep up with all of the Diversity JC topics! 

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)



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!





B.o.B says the Earth is flat…

By now you may be aware that hip-hop artist/rapper (I honestly don’t know if those are one and the same thing) had a long series of tweets about how the Earth is flat, citing “flat Earther” sources.

Neil Tyson, as he often does, stepped in to tell B.o.B that he was wrong about this particular issue.

And let me back up Tyson on this point: B.o.B is wrong. The Earth is round. So are the other planets (perhaps easier to confirm with another planet. Have B.o.B track the Galilean moons as they disappear and re-appear periodically as they orbit Jupiter…indicative of spherical nature of the planet itself– and planets generally).

However, I’d like to ask why B.o.B might feel that way, what makes him so suspicious of science (at least this science)?

In his tweets and his “Flatline” track he released today, there is a strong bent of conspiratorial thinking as well as invoking the idea that scientific knowledge is just another authority hiding the truth of the world.

I don’t know B.o.B.’s biography or his thoughts, but can imagine he faced a lot of bias, rationally learned not to trust authority, and did not feel welcome in the world of academia, seeing it as just another part of a racist/flawed society. So even if he were in school, hearing about science may have made him tune out the knowledge because he saw it as a questionable source.

This post may be reading too much into B.o.B.’s flat Earth beliefs, but may be indicative of why STEM has a diversity problem. It may be seen by those that might have entered it as just another institution where they are not welcome (as well as the fact that there aren’t many URM astronomers out there, Dr. Tyson aside). Admittedly B.o.B. has taken it a step further to also stating that no real knowledge can come from such an institution. Though, perhaps he is demonstrating some curiosity about the world and has incomplete information.

It’s sad that STEM seems to have failed– this is partly why inclusiveness and diversity matter. And though I’m sure B.o.B. has plenty to write about in his songs, it also seems like he’s limiting himself too. Unable to see the deep and wide universe from his flat Earth. He also may be unaware of times when science really can and does challenge authority. He might be interested in those stories.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).



Recap: What is Diversity?

On Friday, The DiversityJC had our January discussion on Twitter (see #DiversityJC on Twitter for the entire discussion) and it was a topic worth reflecting on, for everyone, I think.

Just what is Diversity? And how can the implementation of policies help inclusiveness? How is diversity measured?

On one level, backed up by population genetics, there is only the human race.

From population genetics studies it’s clear that there is only one “race” of Homo sapiens: The human race. And if we could all treat each other as members of one group, rather than othering, diversity.inclusivity might be an easier problem to solve.

The discussion started off with a point that there don’t tend to be many conservatives in STEM and how stereotype threat can affect Christians into underperforming on tests of reason due to views that exist in the US that Christianity and science don’t mix well.

However, it’s not that there aren’t religious people that are scientists. They’re common. It’s only a very few versions of Christianity  (that are loud and are given voice by present political leaders) that fly in the face of strong consensus views of science. Evolution happens. And if you can be OK with that and maintain your faith, you are more than welcome in STEM.

Less religious, but no less pernicious is the Republican party of the US’s denial of climate change (I don’t blame voters for this entirely; it seems to have become an identifying feature of the current leaders of the party). Again, science can back up that climate change happens. There are even a few conservative climate scientists that accept this consensus. And they’re not excluded from STEM beause of their conservative viewpoints.

The Point is religious background or political views are not really high barriers to making it in STEM.

More to the point, diversity is not just any difference:

Diversity of views should exist, but if STEM has already covered an area thoroughly and come to an agreement and you’re coming in saying “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”, that will ensure a chilly reception amongst colleagues in science.

Stereotype threat is real and one problem to overcome with achieving inclusiveness in STEM. And one way to combat it is by building a pool of talent, enabling people to see someone like them doing something they might be interested in. It’s getting to a point where just seeing a person of any background or social identity doing something becomes routine, boring, and simply not extraordinary to an onlooker. It’s a human doing a job, working on a team, living their full life. The one human race working toward its goals.

Biochem Belle shared a few links during the discussion that are worth reading:

And of course, the issue of intersectionality came up. We’re all complex in one way or another. Though a person is not diverse, only a group of people can be.

We also discussed why diversity matters and leapt instantly to the idea “because it increases success of an organization. Which makes diversity seem like a means to a specific end.


Which makes diversity seem like a means to a specific end, which is problematic.

I think we ended up with a view that increasing diversity needs to focus on building a pool of talent (e.g. the BBC policy of having at least one woman/panel show) through actively casting a broad net– seeking out those who might apply for a position from marginalized/URM groups and getting them seen more and more often, letting them do their work.

The goal of inclusion and diversity should be to be amazed by the work someone does and not the person doing it. And of course, making clear to anyone feeling marginalized that 1. It can get better and 2. they too can pursue things they naturally gravitate towards doing, without threat of bias. Just being a part of humanity, being treated how they want to be treated, feeling included.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Emily S. Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

2015 in Review, Emily’s edition: Advice from #DiversityJC


I’ve spend some time thinking about what to write for my Year in Review – rereading posts and recaps for inspiration. In 2015, the Diversity Journal Club explored the intersection of diversity and vaccine refusal, technology in the classrooms, peer review, workaholism, and student evaluations. We talked about the mental toll of science, and under-acknowledged reasons minority students may still avoid some disciplines. We discussed #TimHunt, #DecolonizeSTEM, #AddMaleAuthorGate, and #distractinglysexy.

In sum, we covered a lot of ground in 2015.

Reflecting on all of this, I’m reminded how much I’ve enjoyed our conversations, how fired up I’ve gotten about some of the things I’ve read – and how much I’ve learned, from the reading and from the community of people who engaged with us on this range of topics. These conversations weren’t abstract – they were personal. We aimed for tangible ways forward. This, for me, was and is one of the most important things this community can do. For my 2015 Diversity Journal Club Review, I return to the advice that’s been shared:

  1. Be prepared: Know that discussions of diversity, social justice, mental health, etc, can be uncomfortable and can devolve into confrontation. Don’t let that stop you – but do find and think and discuss ways to address tough situations ahead of time. Also learn how to be a good ally. Learn to listen, learn it’s ok to be wrong and to be comfortable with someone else’s anger, and learn to be open to being educated – but also know where the lines are and what behavior or ideas aren’t ok.
  2. Develop safe spaces and community: On topics from mental health to raising kids to addressing bias, a running theme for me was the importance of safe spaces and of community. We need safe spaces to talk about these issues, as they will likely always be uncomfortable at best. We also need a community to support us –of people like us, of informed and committed allies. We can develop these by speaking out on issues from diversity to work-life balance. Even if you are unsure how to move forward on them or feel uninformed, you can still ask questions of your institution: What is being done about diversity? How do we address work-life balance? What are we doing to prevent racism, sexism, sexual assault? Are there resources to bring in professionals to train staff – if not, why not?
  3. Maintain those safe spaces and community: Once established, these do need consistent engagement to thrive. Attend meetings or workshops on diversity or work-life balance, speak up and out about the importance of these issues. Address sexists, racist, homophobic, or other biased language and jokes. Come out of the closet. This is especially critical if you are tenured and established, and/or in a position of leadership. Often, those of us earlier in our careers feel less safe speaking out – we need examples from those higher up. There’s more on addressing comments at the end of this recap.
  4. Be self-aware and introspective: For me, this is something I do for myself consistently. I know I still have much to learn, and I will never understand the experience of others – but I can be a good ally. I can listen, I can learn from others, I can reflect on what is said to me, and on my internal reactions to situations and interactions.
  5. Walk the walk: If you care about diversity, social justice, mental health, work-life balance – really any of the topics we’ve touched on – don’t just talk about them. Again and again, the fact is those most affected by these issues often take on more of the responsibility for them – even though it is often undervalued or even de-valued. It adds to workloads that are already very demanding. Take on some of that – even if it feels scary or you feel unprepared. You can do this work, too. You need to do this work, too.
  6. Get help and find support: If you feel unprepared to address any of these issues, talk to someone: your friends, your family, faculty members and on-campus groups, centers and activist groups. Read the excellent literature and research out there, including blogs and online resources. And finally, be ok with being wrong; it’s better to say something and be educated. More on this in our recap here.
  7. Learn to listen & amplify underrepresented voices: Be a good ally by learning to let others share their experience, their views, and what should be done. Listen when they say there’s a problem, don’t assume that because you haven’t experienced it it doesn’t exist. When you’ve listened, don’t then take those words as your own. Amplify that voice, that message.
  8. Be a good mentor and role model – and encourage and spotlight other mentors and role models: One of the major issues around diversity that I have heard over and over is the lack of not only good mentors, but good role models. As a white person, the importance of seeing other people who look like you, doing something you could be doing, had to be explained to me. I had people that looked like me in most careers that sounded cool my entire life. More on mentors and role models here.


In addition to this advice, as I look forward to another year, I find myself thinking… what new topics can there be? Will we remain fresh and relevant? From race to gender to work-life balance and back again… haven’t we talked about everything?

The answer, of course, is yes. Unfortunately, there will be another Tim Hunt or Geoff Marcy , and I won’t be surprised to hear from the #GasLightingDuo again. We didn’t even get to Antonin Scalia. And there will be new ways the community will find to demonstrate how important diversity, in all its forms, is for not only critical for scientists, but for science.

Here’s to those new discussions, those new explorations of diversity and what it means to be a balanced scientist in STEM. And, as always, here’s to you, #DiversityJC contributors. I so look forward to the next things I will learn from all of you.

Here’s to 2016.

Recap: Reporting Structures and Dealing With Harassers.

During this Diversity Journal Club, we discussed the Geoff Marcy harassment case as well as existing structures for reporting and how to deal with harassers. The conversation brought up a lot of good points that likely aren’t discussed enough. The entire discussion can be found on Twitter by searching for the #DiversityJC hashtag and looking for October 26.

One of the things I wrote in the post for the discussion was that the ultimate solution is changing the culture so that people like Marcy are reported early and their behavior isn’t tolerated. Currently, when such behavior does occur, any survivor of it faces a difficult choice. Reporting has consequences as does not reporting; it doesn’t seem as if either option is really a good one. This doesn’t include additional disruptions to departments, universities, and others dealing with a harasser and supporting the survivor. We want STEM workers concentrating on their work. Harassment and other aspects of our culture make that harder for too many in science.

The fact that reporting is hard (often not obvious who to turn to) and that harassment is too often covered up or consequences inconsequential and often take time to implement creates an environment hostile to reporting.

One aspect of the problem is something Emily pulled out of my initial post.

And even though harassment is not part of a mentoring relationship, the culture of academia does have a problem in training mentors as well as truly valuing it. As a recent editorial in Science states, the power dynamics in academia can permit harassment to continue. Part of the cultural change needed is to talk to men about speaking up, learning about reporting structures, and listening to those that are targets of harassment.

Jacquelyn Gill And Doctor PMS had some recommendations for supporting those that are targets of harassment:

There are apparently some programs that do well, like this one Emily cited:

And this for harassment policy resources:

Something several people brought up was the idea that some institutions designate everyone as “mandatory reporters”, where if they hear about harassment, they are obligated to report it to someone else, presumably someone that will investigate the claim. Even though such a policy might be in place, little training seems to have gone along with it for exactly how to support a victim of sexual harassment/assault and just who to report to. It also might make reporting less likely, ironically, as it means someone that might be trusted can no longer be if they’re supposed to report it to someone else.

And not reporting at all may result in the harasser continuing to target others in the future, but many early career researchers feel that they cannot take the risk to their own careers in today’s culture.

As to whether the Marcy story coming to light and him resigning is a sign of progress in changing the culture. The DiversityJC did not really think so:

At the same time, Marcy did keep his job 20 years ago and has been a serial harasser ever since until just this last month due to reporters and social media as well as the astronomy community. The culture may not be where it needs to be, but having a professor resign did not happen even a few years ago (or another example, a blog editor at Scientific American). And that does strike me as progress. Although far from parity and equal representation/inclusivity, STEM is more diverse now than ever. This isn’t a “good job, we can relax now”, but there are some signs of progress. Assessing what might be working is a good thing to do now and again. Now, I may not know what I’m talking about here, as I am one that lives life on the lowest difficulty setting as Wil Wheaton says, but having paid attention to discussions the last few years, things do seem to be slowly moving in the right direction.

Underscoring that we have a ways to go oh harassment/assaul, Jennifer Hoffman noted that those that reported Marcy only did so because they were in permanent positions or had left the field of astronomy:

I hope serial harassers like Marcy are rare. And I hope that men learn or speak to one another about specifically what constitutes harassment and why it’s a problem (in any context, though we’re mostly concerned with the STEM workplace here).

This story isn’t over. And hopefully we see the UC system really change how they deal with cases like Marcy’s:

And enable real consequences (i.e. dismissal) for harassment, not just what amounted to double secret probation.

Unfortunately, changing the culture around harassment isn’t like flipping a light switch. It will take work, reform, and I hope we’re moving in that direction.

Ian Street

Emily Klein


Note: The DiversityJC will be on hiatus for the rest of 2015. We’ll be back in 2016. In the meantime, you can visit old topic posts, re-caps, and use the #DiversityJC hashtag and tag one of us if you run across a diversity-related topic  (@IHSreet, @Doctor_PMS, and @DrEmilySKlein on Twitter). Enjoy your holidays and see the DiversityJC community in January!