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Special Seminar

Unconscious Bias in Hiring, Promotions, and Tenure

Joan T. Schmelz
Presented by Joan T. Schmelz
Deputy Director, Arecibo Observatory
Former Chair, Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy

Thursday, September 24, 2015
11:00 A.M. in 321 Pickering Auditorium

We all have biases, and we are (for the most part) unaware of them. Unconscious bias is NOT prejudice. In fact, men and women both unconsciously devalue the contributions of women. This can have a detrimental effect on grant proposals, job applications, and performance reviews. Sociology is way ahead of astronomy in these studies. For example, when evaluating identical application packages, male and female university psychology professors preferred 2:1 to hire "Brian" over "Karen" as an assistant professor. When evaluating a more experienced record, at the point of promotion to tenure, reservations were expressed four times more often about Karen than about Brian. This unconscious bias has a repeated negative effect on Karen's career (Steinpreis, Anders and Ritzke 1999, Sex Roles, 41, 509). In this talk, I will introduce the concept of unconscious bias, review the studies that uncovered it, and give recommendations on how to address it. The process of eliminating unconscious bias begins with awareness, then moves to policy and practice, and ends with accountability.

JPL Contact: Alina Kiessling

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