The following are ways to help counter the effects of bias and unfair treatment that women scientists still face at times.
- Adopt allies: Your colleagues, both male and female, can be enlisted to help counteract conscious and unconscious bias against women in life science. Ask them to:
- Refuse to be on a panel that is predominantly male when that does not reflect the organization’s membership.
- Sponsor a woman for a job.
- Be vocal about any support they feel for a woman’s idea, when the woman delivers an idea that is met with silence.
- Talk with a participant in a meeting who routinely talks over women participants more than male participants.
- Ask funding agencies to set aside some funds for women-led businesses.
- Stay in touch with your female colleagues when you move to a new position and periodically meet to help each other practice pitches, prepare for job interviews, and read each other’s papers and grant proposals.
Picture a Scientist – A film that chronicles experiences of women scientists from harassments to subtle slights with insights on how to make science “more diverse, equitable, and open to all.”
How Can Individuals…
…Address Unfair Treatment of Women Scientists?
Many women scientists we talked with have had unfair treatment. Two common themes were being taken advantage of in sharing the workload and not being given credit for their work.
On being taken advantage of in the workload: Some women said they find themselves doing more of the foundational work that does not lead to recognition or advancement. They cautioned that a personal style of too much “niceness” can work against you.
On others taking credit for their work: Some women found they were looked at disfavorably when they pointed it out. In these discussions, we heard the following ideas of how to communicate your contribution without looking petty:
- Being proactive and letting bosses know of your accomplishments before someone can take credit was the most favored approach. To avoid the problem of not being given appropriate credit in a publication, talk about authorship early during collaborations.
- When someone takes credit for your work in a meeting, try agreeing that it was an accomplishment that you are also proud of along with the team (if appropriate) and follow with a description of your role in terms of the impact or benefit for the company.
- For example, “As a member of the team, I’m glad that [describe the impact for the company]. I enjoyed contributing [describe your contribution].”
External Example: Example of unfair treatment in which a woman scientist was called a “crazy woman” engaged in “paranoiac fights” in public forums and had her home address revealed publicly in response to her critique of a scientific publication. Lee S. A Data Sleuth Challenged A Powerful COVID Scientist. Then He Came After Her. BuzzFeed News. October 18, 2021.
…Address Bias Against Women Scientists?
Some women entrepreneurs choose not to try to compensate for bias and say they would not want to do business with biased individuals. It is a personal decision whether you are willing to try to compensate for the bias you encounter against women in business. If you are willing to try to compensate, the following have been recommended by successful women entrepreneurs:
- Some women scientists have recommended taking male graduate students or partners along to meetings with potential investors, in case the investors are so biased that they will not hear your ideas or trust your abilities because they come from a woman.
- To compensate for bias that affects how well self-promotion is received:
- Frame your accomplishments in terms of progress on major projects.
- Ask others to advocate for you. For women, self-promotion may be better accepted by biased parties if it comes via a 3rd party, such as via a recommendation.
- Talk about what your team accomplished first, and then describe your specific role.
- Emphasize the benefit of your accomplishment to the organization and others and how excited you are about it.