Whether we are aware of them or not, biases impact the way we make decisions and evaluate the world around us.
Scientists are trained to think as objectively as possible in their research. This training makes it easy for scientists to believe their objectivity extends to all of their perceptions, interactions, and decisions. However, bias nestles deeply into our subconscious and is exercised implicitly rather than explicitly most of the time. Discovering and challenging our biases requires concerted effort.
It can be frustrating and disappointing to take an implicit bias test and find that we have developed a “shorthand” for thinking about the world—one that unintentionally puts women, people of color, and other minority groups at a disadvantage.
Nevertheless, we each must confront our biases—not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because bias has a lasting negative impact on the sciences. Research shows that:
- Male undergraduate students underestimate the academic performance of their female peers¹
- Science faculty favor their male students²
- Profound differences exist between the ways in which women and men are considered for science jobs, grants, prizes, and awards³
Bias is hard to overcome, but it is entirely possible.
Studies show4 that when we are clear and direct about confronting bias, we can use established best practices to make significant progress. Let’s dive into this together and ensure better outcomes for all of physics and astronomy.
¹ Grunspan, et al
² Moss-Racusin, et al
³ Moss-Racusin, et al; Biernat, et al; Lincoln, et al; Koren; Carnes, et al
4 Yen 2019, Carnes et al 2015, Moss-Racusin 2018