June 24th, 2011

professor

Gender Is Dead! Long Live Gender! : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

Gender Is Dead! Long Live Gender! : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

Studies like this are utterly fascinating to me.  In part, I think it's because they are so terribly annoying in pointing out the biases we all introduce into the way we think about ourselves --- and because it's not at all clear what we can do to overcome them. 

I teach in a male-dominated profession (computer science) at a male-dominated university (Kettering University).  I can see the unhealthy effects of such a gender skew every time I walk into the classroom.  In a room of 30 students, there's a marked difference in the way the class interacts with each other (and with me) when there are no female students, only one female student, or 2-3 female students.  (I've never been in a scenario with more than 3 female students in a class, or I'd comment further.)

But, largely, anything that I can do about the situation is applying a bandage to a gaping wound.  I have very little influence on who chooses to seek admission to my university, much less my degree program.  By the time it gets to me, the incredible shrinking pipeline has already shrunk the supply of interested women to a trickle.  I can (and do) try to make sure that women in my courses aren't placed at disadvantage by anything I say or do ... much less what the rest of the class says or does.  But how do we overcome biases that are so insidious that we don't even recognize that we have them?
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