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On the importance of WIPS not being wimps


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Considers ideas for making women more visible in science

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On the importance of WIPS not being wimps

  1. 1. On the importance of WIPS not being wimps Dorothy V. M. Bishop Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology University of Oxford @deevybee WIPS talks : Women in the Psychological Sciences
  2. 2. A journalist calls you at work and asks if you will come and be interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV about a story relevant to your area Which option best matches your reaction? • Proud to be asked and to have opportunity to put your point of view • You haven’t really got the time, but feel you should agree • You decline because you really don’t feel qualified to do it • Blind panic at the prospect that you could be made to look an idiot
  3. 3. You receive an invitation to give an all-expenses paid presentation at a major international conference in 9 months time. Which option best matches your reaction? • Excitement at the fabulous opportunity • Pleased but worried how you will fit this into your busy life • Initial pleasure at the invitation immediately followed by anxiety • Can’t do it: they’d just find out that you are an imposter who doesn’t really know very much
  4. 4. You go to a seminar where an eminent speaker appears to have missed an alternative explanation for a key result • Hand shoots up: important question; you don’t want to miss this opportunity • You raise the point if there aren’t lots of other questions • You assume that if your point is correct someone else will make it • You would rather the ground swallowed you up than that you should publicly question the speaker How do you respond at question time?
  5. 5. The problem Women in science are under-represented: • As media experts • As plenary speakers/panellists in conferences • In top jobs • On social media (?)
  6. 6. Societal pressures Institutional practices Biased selection processes Women’s self- perception
  7. 7. Important! • Focus here on women’s self-perception does NOT mean I think women are to blame for inequality • This is just one factor in a complex causal network • But it tends not to get talked about precisely because people worry it implies we are blaming women for their own situation • Gender influences on self-perception are real and we need to think about whether we can alter them – but this is just one approach to an issue that also needs social/institutional changes
  8. 8. Strategies for Breaking the Cycle • Increase conscious awareness of bias and how bias can affect evaluation – Implicit Association Test: • Develop more explicit criteria (less ambiguity) • Alter institutional policies and practices • Increase sustained interaction • Increase critical mass Is there anything else individuals can do?
  9. 9. “At a public conference I won’t serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair”
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  12. 12. But also need to address.... Schemas Expectations or stereotypes that influence our judgments of others (regardless of our own group)
  13. 13. 1. Schemas are key aspect of cognition • Instead of processing all information, process some salient information and fill in defaults • Allow efficient, if inaccurate, processing of information • Defaults will be derived from experience/exposure, so can be heavily influenced not just by own experience, but by advertising, media, narratives, etc • Unlikely to change unless experience/exposure changes • Schemas may conflict with consciously held, explicit, attitudes
  14. 14. 2. Schemas misrepresent individuals, even if they accurately represent averages • Suppose there is a large gender difference on a desirable trait, X • Our schema will incorporate this, so we will tend to assume women higher on X than men • But there will be men who score within same range as typical women, and vice versa • We should judge people on their true attributes, rather than those of their gender
  15. 15. 3. Gender schemas held by women and men • Men seen as more competent and able than women • More favourable responses to male leaders • More attention and deference to men
  16. 16. 4. Cumulative impact of gender schemas • Most effect sizes are small • But small-scale disadvantages cumulate over time R.F. Martell, D.M. Lane & C. Emrich (1996). Male-female differences: a computer simulation. American Psychologist 51:157-158 In a hypothetical organization of 8 levels, with 50:50 ratio of men:women at start, giving a 1% advantage for men at each level yields 65% male at the top level
  17. 17. 5. Gender schemas affect self-perception * All generalisations of this kind need to be read as statements about averages: there can be wide variation around means, and much overlap between males and females Women view selves as less competent* • Have less confidence in their own abilities: “imposter syndrome” • Are more anxious about drawing attention to themselves • Concern about appearing pushy/aggressive This feeds into process of cumulative disadvantage
  18. 18. Conference organiser: Who shall I invite? No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes NEXT TIME Response
  19. 19. Since schemas are derived in part from data, if we want to change the schema, we need to change the data Can we disrupt disadvantageous schemas by being more willing to put our heads above the parapet? Two small steps toward greater visibility: Debating in public Debating on social media Logical conclusion
  20. 20. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding Proverbs 17:28 It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt attr. Mark Twain Reasons people gave for not speaking out 1. It’s risky
  21. 21. Should you ask a Question during a seminar? Based on Do you actually HAVE a question? Are you sure that it’s not a dumb question? Are you sure the speaker hasn’t already answered it? Are you the Chair, asking a question because there is an awkward silence? OK, you have a legitimate question. Do you actually care about the answer? FINE! Ask your question! Yes Yes Yes No Yes Are you trying to show off? No Yes Go for it Maybe I don’t think so Thank God. Please ask the question and let’s get out of here! Yes Not really. I just want to show off 2. It’s showing off
  22. 22. 3. Overt criticism is uncomfortable
  23. 23. Tips for speaking out • Reconceptualising proactive approach: changing people’s schema – important not just for you but the generation coming up behind • Reconceptualising criticism – learning opportunity • Easier if in mutual support network • Gets easier with practice: Prepares you for high- stakes situations when it is important to speak out
  24. 24. Social media: an alternative format for finding your voice Advantages • Can take part in discussions in short time scale, but with enough time to think and check before responding • Interaction with much broader range of people than in regular academic life Disadvantages • Need to develop a thick skin (trolls) • Resistance from the scientific establishment
  25. 25. “Tone” wars
  26. 26. Anne Scheel: Asked why fewer women engage in discussion on social media N.B. no scientific evidence, so this is her opinion • Women tend to be much less confident about their knowledge/reasoning, • At the same level of confidence as men, women feel that they have more to lose. • Online discussions can appear more rude than direct conversation “….”Imposter syndrome therapy”: I think the trick is to just tell yourself again and again that: a) Nobody is going to kill you and b) 80% of others don’t have more of a clue than you do, just a bigger mouth”. https://cogtales.wordpress. com/2016/10/20/an- interview-with-a-next- generation-methodological- freedom-fighter/
  27. 27. My view • Could use the female schema to advantage: • If women in general dislike aggression, then involvement of more women in these debates may help maintain a civil tone, and move away from high testosterone- charged confrontations
  28. 28. Conclusions • Influence of schemas is just one aspect of pressures against gender equality, but it is one that we can do something about • Schemas can be modified so women more comfortable with making themselves visible in scientific discourse • We owe it to the next generation to attempt this: the more they see that it is possible to engage publicly – whether in Q&A or on social media – the more we will alter perceptions • Remember: incremental changes have impact!