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E. Cultural Issues

Some of the strongest, but most difficult to quantify, reasons that individuals from underrepresented groups can feel disadvantaged arise from a mismatch with the majority "culture" -- i.e., implicit norms and expectations of behavior. Specific recommendations that are made above would go far toward dealing with some of these issues in terms of policies and practices, but there remains a large gray area of subtle cultural issues that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in tenured and other leadership roles. In the words of Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Science 304, p. 489, 2004): "Women and minorities should not do all the adapting. It is time for society to move toward women, not women toward society."

Recommendations:

  1. Institutions should encourage gender-equity training and make it available at all levels. This should include discussions of the well-studied effects of subtle discrimination, unconscious bias, and the accumulation of disadvantage.
  2. In an era in which the ability to work within a large team is becoming increasingly important for scientific success, departments should foster a collaborative and team-oriented approach rather than just the more traditional, competitive scientific culture. Responsibilities and rewards should be shared equitably in the team environment. It is also expected that such a team should be composed of diverse members of the department, where appropriate (for example, men and women, junior and senior faculty, students, etc.).
  3. Good communication channels should be maintained and encouraged throughout academic departments and laboratories, both within peer groups and spanning traditional hierarchical levels. Department chairs should organize regular opportunities for two-way communication throughout the hierarchy.
  4. Institutions should ensure that a career in research is compatible with having a family; professional activities (e.g., class and meeting schedules) as well as employment benefits (e.g., childcare, family leave, etc.) should be developed with this specific goal in mind.
Follow-up Suggestions for Implementation:

Other Resources: