Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Difficult Dialogues: Negotiating Faculty Responses to a Gender Bias Literacy Training Program

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Difficult Dialogues: Negotiating Faculty Responses to a Gender Bias Literacy Training Program

Article excerpt

Gender Inequity Interventions in Academia

Women in STEMM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) at U.S. academic institutions experience slower rates of career advancement, higher rates of attrition at all career stages, and disproportionate representation in senior ranks (Committee on Gender Differences in Careers of Science, 2010; Martinez et al., 2007). When examining reasons for these inequities, a committee of national experts concluded that systematic bias deeply rooted in assumptions about gender pose the greatest barrier to achieving gender equity (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, & Institute of Medicine Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, 2007). This conclusion was derived from the social psychology experimental research that shows that cultural stereotypes about men and women influence behaviors and judgments often unintentionally and in spite of sincere individual and institutional commitments to equity (Biernat, & Fuegen, 2001; Devine et al., 1989; Eagly, 2002). Despite universal anti-discriminatory policies to explicitly reduce stereotype-based gender bias since the 1960's, subtle systems of gender bias unintentionally persist across disciplines and nationalities, and this research confirms that gender bias is rooted in cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent than men, especially in male-dominated fields of science and leadership (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, & Institute of Medicine Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, 2007; Isaac, Lee, & Carnes, 2009; Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, & Handelsman, 2012).

Various approaches have been taken to ameliorate gender inequity in academia. Most involve professional development programs, enhancing diversity by recruiting women students and faculty, and infusing multicultural content into curricula. Research studies, many from the corporate arena, indicate that mandated diversity training may improve diversity (Bendick, Egan, & Lofhjelm, 2001; Fraser & Hunt, 2011; Rynes & Rosen, 1995). In academic settings, leading faculty to change is challenging (Brown & Moshavi, 2002; Eckel et al., 1998): some may not recognize or accept the need to change, and coercive efforts such as mandatory diversity training have the potential to backfire (Dobbin & Kalev, 2013; Kidder, Lankau, Chrobot-Mason, Mollica, & Friedman, 2004). Diversity discussions evoke strong emotional reactions including shame, shock, guilt, self-blame, confusion, powerlessness, defensiveness, fear, anger, and sadness (Garcia & Van Soest, 2000; Harro, 2000; Mildred & Zúñiga, 2004). Responses such as blame-the-messenger or challenge-theevidence (Adams, 2007) create complex situations for both presenters and participants. Studies on student reactions to diversity discussions report polarized fronts in mixed-gender classes (Culley, 1985). Male participants may respond with anger, resistance, and feelings of being threatened (Sinacore & Boatwright, 2005; Orr, 1993); acts of retaliation such as refusal to read certain topics (J. Nadelhaft, 1985); poor course evaluations (R. Nadelhaft, 1985); vocal objections to the male's decentralized role (Rakow, 1991); and marginalizing or attacking the presenter (Bell, Morrow, & Tastsoglou, 1999; Culley, 1985; Lewis, 1993; J. Nadelhaft, 1985; R. Nadelhaft, 1985; Rakow, 1991). Women students are torn in these situations; some react neutrally or retaliate by male-bashing (Drenovsky, 1999; Musil, 1992), some attempt to rescue male colleagues by minimizing inflammatory statements, and others engage in silent self-protection (Lewis, 1993). Regardless of gender, defensive behaviors drain energy as participants monitor their contributions to these difficult discussions, considering how to be seen more favorably and how to avoid being viewed as too dominant or hostile (Gibb, 2008). …

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