Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Holy Shit, Mentoring Biases!

Emma Watson
#heforshe because I want my daughter to live in a world without the below scenario

Lately there's been a lot going on in the realm of gender politics. One of the big rallying cries for the Women's Rights movement of late has been the fact that women make about 77 cents for every dollar men make in the work force. One of the big answers to that cry has been that women tend to choose lower-paying jobs, so it's your own fault for not joining the STEM collective.
Borg Cube
...and adding your biological and technological distinctiveness to their own

Well, not so fast.

It's generally accepted that, in order to really excel in any discipline, you need a good mentor. Academic mentoring is a time-honored tradition that dates back to probably around the time humans realized that they could use specific noises to pass their knowledge on to another person. It's an essential part of the learning experience.

With this in mind, researchers sent thousands of letters to professors asking if they'd be willing to be a mentor to the letter-writer. These requests were 100% identical, but were signed with different names. In the STEM fields, if the letters were signed by a female-sounding name (or what we'll politely call an "ethnic" name), not only were they less likely to get a willing mentor -- they hardly ever even got an answer.

These mentors are essentially the gatekeepers of lucrative career fields, and the sign they're currently hanging on the gate looks like this:
Berenstain Bears
Wherein Brother Bear is kind of an asshole

This sort of thing has always bothered me, but now that I have a daughter?

Holy shit.

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