Wednesday, January 21, 2015

          New Study Reveals "Double Jeopardy" Faced by Women of Color in STEM

          Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law released the report, which demonstrates in startling fashion how subtle—and not-so-subtle—bias shapes the daily work lives of women in STEM, and how women’s experience of gender bias is shaped by race.
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          The new report released by the Center for WorkLife Law starkly reveals how women of color in science, technology, engineering, and math experience pervasive gender bias.

          A new study released today from the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings combines in-depth interviews of 60 women of color in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with a survey of 557 women in STEM (both women of color and White women), and finds pervasive gender bias.

          Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science was written by Professor Joan C. Williams with coauthors Katherine Phillips of Columbia and Erika Hall of Emory University.

          “This is the first time someone has asked women whether they have encountered in actual workplaces the specific types of gender bias documented in social psychologists’ labs,” said Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings, and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law. "The startling result: 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias. Also, studies of gender bias generally focus on the experiences of White women, leaving unanswered the major question of whether the same patterns of bias extend to women of color. This report finds that women of color experience pervasive gender bias—but in ways that often differ from the ways White women experience it.”

          Significant findings of the report include:

          1. 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias.
          2. Black women are more likely (77%) than other women (66%) to report having to prove themselves over and over again.
          3. The stereotype that Asians are good at science appears to help Asian-American women with students—but not with colleagues.
          4. Asian-Americans reported both more pressure than other groups of women to adhere to traditionally feminine roles and more pushback if they don’t.
          5. Latinas who behave assertively risk being seen as “angry” or “too emotional,” even when they report they weren’t angry; they just weren’t deferential.
          6. Latinas report being pressured by colleagues to do admin support work for their male colleagues, such as organizing meetings and filling out forms.
          7. Both Latinas and Black women report regularly being mistaken as janitors.

          The implication: women leave STEM in response to pervasive and persistent gender bias.

          The report introduces a new approach to organizational change to interrupt gender bias, called Metrics-Based Bias Interrupters, developed by Professor Williams last year.

          Bias Interrupters uses a four-step iterative process: 1) survey women to find out whether they think gender bias is playing out in basic business systems (recruiting, assignments, evaluations, etc.); 2) develop objective metrics to test whether women’s perceptions are accurate; 3) implement “Bias Interrupters” to interrupt bias in real time; 4) see whether the relevant metric improves and, if it doesn’t, strengthen or modify the intervention.

          To download the complete report, Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science, please click here.

          Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law, Hastings Foundation Chair, and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Katherine W. Phillips is the Paul Calello Professor of Leadership & Ethics and Senior Vice Dean at Columbia University Business School. Erika Hall is Assistant Professor of Organization & Management at Emory University, Goizueta Business School.

          To contact Professor Joan C. Williams, call 202-365-8013 or 415-565-4706 or email her at


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