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Speaker Corinne Moss-Racusin invited to discuss gender bias in academia

The graduate program of ecology at Colorado State University is working to start a conversation acknowledging gender bias in academia by inviting researchers in the field to speak on the issue.

The program invited Corinne Moss-Racusin, associate professor in the psychology department at Skidmore College in New York to speak on her research in gender bias in academia to further that conversation on Wednesday in the Lory Student Center.

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woman speaks
Dr. Corinne Moss-Racusin, assistant professor in Psychology at Skidmore College, speaks about her research into gender bias within the field of science, technology, engineering and math. She presented the reasons everyone should care about bias in STEM including the shortage of skilled workers in the field, how important the jobs are, and how the problem isn’t fixing itself. She also spoke on how women are more likely to become involved in STEM if bias is removed, how diverse groups are more successful and the importance of gender quality. (Matt Tackett | Collegian)

The Research Mentoring to Advance Inclusivity in STEM program, which is funded by the Women and Gender Collaborative, brought Moss-Racusin to campus.

“One of our goals as part of RMAIS was to have several supporting activities and part of that was inviting somebody to campus who was a specialist in this area,” said Colleen Webb, director of the ecology graduate program.

In her talk, Moss-Racusin discussed her own research regarding gender bias. Her lab, the Social Cognition and Intergroup Dynamics Lab, has produced several studies that attempt to quantify gender bias in academia.

In one study presented in the talk, resumes that were identical except for the gender of the applicant were shown to both male and female faculty in STEM, and across the board, the male applicant was given higher ratings.

“STEM gender bias exists, we have experimental evidence from my lab and now others that this is not the meritocracy that we’d like it to be, and that it could be,” Moss-Racusin said. “That bias matters, it has consequences for scientists, individual women’s careers.”

STEM gender bias exists, we have experimental evidence from my lab and now others that this is not the meritocracy that we’d like it to be, and that it could be. That bias matters, it has consequences for scientists, individual women’s careers.” Corinne Moss-Racusin, associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College

Moss-Racusin also argued that gender bias in STEM has a negative impact on the quality of science, giving the example of crash dummies. The dummies being used for car crash tests are primarily modeled after the male body, and as a result, the number of female fatalities in car crashes is significantly higher than that of males.

“I think it’s concerning for a couple of reasons, one is for individual scientists whose careers are stalled. The other is for the quality of science in general,” Moss-Racusin said. “We need the best folks to be working on problems and if we’re systematically preventing the full participation of folks from certain groups, then the quality of science is affected.”

Webb said RMAIS is beginning the process of targeting gender bias within STEM alongside the ecology department because of the department’s extensive reach on campus.

“The graduate degree program in ecology we think is a particularly good place to develop ideas about STEM and gender and science research here at CSU because the program spans 23 different departments,” Webb said. “We’re not biased towards one particular scientific field, there’s a lot of diversity in what people are studying, although it is all within ecology.”

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Emily Girschick can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EGirschick.

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