My moderate gender bias

“Your data suggest a moderate association of Male with Science and Female with Humanities compared to Female with Science and Male with Humanities.”

I took the Implicit Association Test (IAT) today. It was created by researchers to explore our unconscious thoughts and feelings. The goal of the test is to uncover what you know about your own mind, and what you think you know about your own mind, and measure the distance between them.

The IAT was suggested to me by a colleague at the recent Canadian Institute of Mining convention. I had attended a couple of panel sessions on inclusion and diversity in mining, and was frustrated by the lack of progress, particularly for women in mining. I wanted to know what companies were doing about it. This colleague works for a mining company who put the senior management team through unconscious bias training a year earlier, and pointed me to the IAT test on the Harvard University website.

To my horror, my result suggests that I – and about a quarter of the people who take this test – draw a moderate association between males in science and females in humanities. I was appalled. Me? I’m a advocate for girls in #STEM. I volunteer in the soaking rain to encourage girls in aerospace and aviation! How can I be biased?

This test has made me stop and think. On the surface, I am fighting for equality in science (and everywhere else!) and believe women should be associated with science as often as men. But gender stereotypes run deep, and I plan to try and ‘know my mind’ a little better, so I can continue to help move the dial.

Have you taken the test? Check out Project Implicita non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.

Because how can we make change without understanding our own bias?