Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

In the news - workplace biases from the geoscientist's perspective

Anyone who is a member of the EU's many mineralogical, petrological or geochemical societies will be familiar with Elements magazine. For those who aren't, it's a bi-monthly themed publication, with a range of plain-language research articles within that theme, society news and opinion pieces. April's edition, on the theme of arc magmas, includes an opinion piece on 'Recognizing Biases That Affect Women Geoscientists in the Workplace', written by three colleagues at the Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU. They summarise the three main types of bias women face, as well as key methods for reducing the impact of this bias for the benefit of all staff, backed up with key references. Above all, the authors emphasise that we all have biases, and prejudice against women happens even in 'good' departments where it is not immediately obvious. They argue that, rather than dismissing the need to address these problems, they should be tackled consistently and continuously for best effect.

Women are underrepresented in the geosciences. Many different factors affect a woman’s ability to continue and succeed in science. These include a lack of senior women role models; the need for people in partnerships to decide whose career to follow and then to obtain satisfying long-term jobs; inescapable career interruptions for women who choose to have children; and a social bias and expectation that women will take on signifi cant family responsibilities. Programs have been initiated worldwide to try to improve the representation of women in science, and many organizations have aspirations to increase diversity and the fair treatment of women in their workplaces. Yet gender diversity continues to be a systemic problem in the geosciences. In this article, we focus on biases – presumptions that we all have and that we can learn to recognize and actively manage. Many studies show that we impede women’s advancement through inadvertent biases in our decisionmaking, judgment and day-to-day actions (e.g. Ross 2008). How does this happen in the workplaces of “good,” well-intentioned scientists, of all genders, who are trained to think rationally and systematically?

Read more here.

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