Black History Month & the importance of mentors.



*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!

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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)

Next #DiversityJC: Social justice and research beyond safe walls.

I have a list of articles and posts I’d like to share for discussion with the Diversity Journal Club, but this week Somali militants attacked a university in Kenya and killed close to 150 people. I understand that this was an act of terrorism, and possibly less about attacking a university… but.

The militants separated Muslims and Christians, killing the Christians. It also happened in Africa, which means it’s a blip on our radar over here in the US, and not much more.

It reminded me of the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, just because they were girls going to school. It reminded me of the village the same group wiped from the map – and we generally ignored that, too.

These topics may seem only loosely connected, and not connected at all to the Diversity Journal Club, but they also got me thinking about a discussion with my advisor a few months back. A friend had forwarded an opportunity to teach summer school to me as a “resume builder“. I couldn’t go, so I forwarded to the lab. My advisor responded: “You realize that this a a challenging situation for females, don’t you?

The opportunity was to teach in Saudi Arabia.

The exchange that followed was about how, first, my own privilege-blinders meant I hadn’t even gotten to his point, to even consider it, before I forwarded the email (that alone speaks volumes). Also, it was a teachable moment about how “females” is an adjective referring to the ability of a individual of any species to produce offspring, therefore it reduces women to their reproductive organs as well as being incorrect, and how not all women are biologically female.

It also sparked a conversation about the conditions such a teaching opportunity involves – and if that “challenging situation” is worth having women (or anyone in the minority – Christians in parts of Nairobi for instance) as role models, as teachers – especially if putting yourself into such a situation could be detrimental to your safety, in addition to your career.

This week for Diversity Journal Club, we’d like to have a conversation that draws these threads together. That challenges us to think about what social justice and diversity work looks like beyond the sheltered boundaries we tend to operate within, to think about what it means to do social justice work beyond those borders.

Is it important for people to teach or do research in places that are any where from uncomfortable to downright dangerous? If given the opportunity – would you? Why or why not?

Finally – even if this all seems abstract, even if we will choose never to leave our safe borders – how does it still affect research and scientific advancement?

We don’t have the answers here. We don’t even know this is a fully formed topic for discussion. It just struck us as important, and that we should have these conversations, as they don’t happen very often. People do move on, or ignore these very real issues with real significance. They’re a blip on the US media radar screen. Despite all those celebrities, we never did #BringBackOurGirls.

For reading to spark inspiration, check out the links in this post, but especially the one about the conditions teaching in Saudi Arabia that my advisor sent me, as well as this one on the Nigerian girls who still risk their lives to go to school, but please add recommendations in the comments or on twitter under #DiversityJC.

And – let’s keep in mind Pippa Biddle’s musing on privileged people doing international work:

I want her to have a hero who she can relate to – who looks like her, is part of her culture, speaks her language, and who she might bump into on the way to school one morning.

It’s a complicated picture, but we live in a global scientific community. Or do we?

We will discuss MONDAY 6 APRIL at 2PM ET – and don’t forget to add #DiversityJC.

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Male Professors receive higher marks because… they’re men?

Good morning Diversity Journal Club!

Our next discussion will take place on Monday 23 February at 2pm EST! After tackling vaccine refusal and privilege, we now move on to student bias in teaching reviewsas if Monday mornings aren’t inspiring enough!

“In other words, students who thought they were being taught by women gave lower evaluation scores than students who thought they were being taught by men. It didn’t matter who was actually teaching them.”

I’ve uploaded the study to Google Drive, so let us know in the comments if you can’t access it. There’s also a quick discussion of the work and Amanda Marcotte’s post on it at Slate.

In addition, let’s talk about an excellent little page by Ben Schmidt to explore gendered language in teaching reviews. He used 14 million RateMyProfessor reviews to develop an interactive graphic that demonstrates how students used various language at different rates for men and woman (type in any word ya like and see what happens!)

“You can enter any other word (or two-word phrase) into the box below to see how it is split across gender and discipline: the x-axis gives how many times your term is used per million words of text (normalized against gender and field). You can also limit to just negative or positive reviews (based on the numeric ratings on the site). For some more background, see here.

Not all words have gender splits, but a surprising number do. Even things like pronouns are used quite differently by gender.”

Have thoughts on these studies and findings? Have your own experiences with bias in the classroom? How might such biases also manifest across race, class, or other stereotyped characteristics (that mean nothing for teaching ability)? Is there a reason people don’t feel comfortable coming out at Princeton? What happens to the statistics if you’re a black woman?

Join us Monday 23 February at 2pm EST!