• September 2, 2015

New Game Plays on Women's Experiences of Gender Bias in Academe

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As a female professor, are you called rude and abrasive while your male colleagues who make similar statements are simply labeled assertive? Has your department head discouraged you from taking an assignment, saying that because you have children you might not be able to handle it?

If things like that have happened to you, yell: "Bingo!"

The Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law is unveiling a new online game on Thursday called Gender Bias Bingo. The game is intended for women, although men who have overheard biased statements or have faced bias because they are fathers can also play. An online bingo card names six overall categories of gender bias, like assumptions that women cannot be both good mothers and good workers. Professors who submit examples online of at least three of the types of gender bias in the workplace can declare bingo and win a T-shirt.

"We're attempting to teach people how to recognize gender bias when it happens to them," says Joan C. Williams, a professor of law and director of the center. "We also want to get a buzz going so other people—department chairs—will secretly visit the site to learn what's going on."

Ms. Williams, who has written widely about how motherhood can stymie women's academic careers, designed the game with part of a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. She plans to unveil it at a meeting of female professors who have received NSF grants that were awarded to help change university policies and culture so that institutions hire and hang onto more female scientists and engineers.

Ms. Williams had read nearly 200 scientific studies of gender bias in academic journals and wanted a way to make the findings accessible to female professors. So she came up with four general patterns of bias, solicited examples of them from focus groups of female professors, and made it all available on a Web site, along with the bingo game.

The Web site comes with "strategies for surviving gender bias" and includes videotaped scenarios illustrating the four patterns of bias. It also offers university administrators an economic argument for stopping gender bias, which can lead women to leave universities. "It does not make economic sense, particularly in these economic conditions, to keep recruiting women and then keep driving them out," says Ms. Williams, who points out that a start-up package for a research scientist can cost as much as $1-million. "There had never been built, as far as I could tell, a clear explanation of why it's cheaper to keep her."


1. jffoster - October 29, 2009 at 12:30 am

Is this "gender bias"? Or sex bias?

2. 11891865 - October 29, 2009 at 07:46 am

Ah, Prove It Again! That's my department!

3. burlingtoncol - October 29, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I agree with jffoster, this should be renamed "Sex Bias Bingo" as I suspect that individuals who do not fall into the male/female binary experience even greater level of discrimination and bias within the academy.

4. boredwithacademia - October 30, 2009 at 07:08 am

Why can't we have one for the many male victims of gender bias?

How about:

Have you been passed over for a tenure-track job in favor an objectively less qualified woman? - Reverse Discrimination!

Did your adviser favor her female PhD students over you in funding decisions, recommendations, and general career development? - The Mother Hen!

Do your female administrators tolerate gossip about your private life that would certainly lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit if a male administrator did? - The Gossipy Busybody!

Do you get dirty looks from female colleagues because your female students like you, even if in only a very friendly way? - The Jealous Old Hag!

Have you ever been on a search committee with a female colleague or colleagues who announced they would support a female job candidate solely on the basis of her gender in order to remedy "continuing gender bias?" The Ya Ya Sisterhood!

5. laoshi - October 30, 2009 at 08:43 am

Typical feminazi game. And like typical misandrists, they gripe about men but use them to pay the bill!

Why couldn't they have used the 300 large to buy some nice clothes, get boob jobs, or otherwise serve the whole of academe rather than the unshaved Birkenstock set?

6. amnirov - October 30, 2009 at 09:40 am

Pffffh. What a joke. At my university, all the senior administrative positions are held by women. My departmental chair is a woman. The majority of faculty in my department are women. Gender balance and gender equity have not only been achieved but surpassed. It's time to move on from this ridiculous 1960's baby boomer idiocy. Yeah, if you spend time with your children instead of putting in your fair share of service you won't go far and it doesn't matter what your genitals look like. I can hardly wait for everyone born before Gen-X to retire.

7. fidomere - October 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

Congratulations! All of you have proven that gender bias still exists. As someone who grew up in Arkansas, I have heard these exact arguments put forward to demonstrate the "victim" status of white people in the face of efforts toward racial equality, too. And you even borrow language from Rush Limbaugh! Too bad you can't be more original in your efforts to protect your privilege.

8. amnirov - October 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

har har har... fidomere has just provided an awesome example of the argumentum ad hitlerum. Nice try, but you just lost.

9. boredwithacademia - October 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Studies like this are the reason why academia is rapidly becoming a preserve for unappealing, embittered, and (often) unhappily single middle aged women. I don't think it's an accident that this corresponds with academia's shrinking relevance to the way people - even college-educated ones - think, live, and function.

10. silverarrow - October 30, 2009 at 02:17 pm

boredwithacademia, actually, doesn't that statement about unappealing, embittered, and (often) unhappily single middle-aged women kind of reinforce the whole notion that there is gender bias against women in higher learning? Sure, you guys offer your own anacedotal evidence of where you too, have experienced gender bias in areas of higher learning, but that doesn't preclude the fact that women too, experience it on a day-to-day basis.

Well, if it makes you feel better, here's a case of a guy who sued and won in a case of reverse discrimination: http://chronicle.com/article/Part-Time-Instructor-Wins-/25533/

11. minnesotan - October 30, 2009 at 04:43 pm

Gah! Quit saying reverse discrimination. It's as ignorant as the term 'reverse' racism. The 'reverse' of discrimination and racism is equity. Therefore discrimination against men and racism against whites is quite the opposite!

You're setting up a system where all racism is white versus other, all discrimination is male verus other. This is hardly the reality.

12. 22108469 - October 30, 2009 at 05:21 pm

Sheesh. In the words of someone wise, "Life is hard, then you die."

13. smitty1 - October 30, 2009 at 05:41 pm

Several of the comments posted here make it clear how widespread misogyny is in our society. You can never read an article about the very real biases women face (there are many good quality scientific studies which demonstrate this) without comments from women-haters. It's particularly ironic to read comments such as laoshi's, in which he (presumably) is quick to use terms like "feminazi" and misandrist, but is not willing to explore his own misogyny (as evidenced by suggesting that grant money would be better spent by women to pay for nice clothes or "boob jobs"). Comments like those from boredwithacademia, which indicate a sense of victimization by presumed advantages that women have, are typical too. The male victim card is a strange one to play, as never in the history of the world, certainly still true in our age, has it been better to be a woman than a man when it comes to rights and privileges.

Unless we are willing to address the real biases against women in our culture, we will suffer as a society. The education and status of women in a society is a key marker of the society's advancement and health. Scandinavian societies are a good model for this - they are a model of gender equality, and they enjoy a high standard of living and quality of life, for both women and men. At the other end of the spectrum is societies like those of the Taliban, in which women are not allowed education and have a low social status. We'll need to decide which direction we plan to move in. Seems like laoshi and boredwithacademia might like a Taliban-like society. I certainly hope we are willing to explore our biases, work to eradicate them, and move in a positive direction.

14. boredwithacademia - October 31, 2009 at 04:52 am

silverarrow, the presence of unappealing, embittered, and (often) unhappily single middle-aged women (a description fitting 100% of my female deparmental colleagues in my first job, along with the dean, two department directors I had to deal with, and the institution's new provost) reinforces the notion that such people succeed in academia. If it didn't, there would be no reason for me to observe and, frankly, object to them. Are they that way because of gender bias? I doubt it. Gender bias in academia may be frustrating and wrong, but it doesn't make you ugly or stop you from finding a husband or force you to suffer from any of the other many cruel non-gender specific things academia does to all of us.

smitty, it's outrageous to compare someone objecting to gender bias - something very real for academic mean - to the Taliban. Perhaps women do not enjoy the same position as men throughout society, but in academia women clearly enjoy the greatest amount privilege, often to the detriment of equally or more qualified men. I think that's wrong and I'd like for it to stop. No one's talking about burkhas....yet....

15. aifos - October 31, 2009 at 11:57 am

Some of the articles in the Chronicle - like this one - make me feel so old.

Can we move on now?

Its not easy for anyone.

16. stinkcat - October 31, 2009 at 06:20 pm

I find that when white males bring up the fact that they too are sometimes discriminated against, the reaction from the defenders of AA takes two paths. First, the is an ardent denial that a white male has ever or will ever been discriminated against. Second, when that arguement fails, as it inevitably must, then the response is typically: "yeah, well you probably deserved the discrimination anyway."

17. skyedent - October 31, 2009 at 06:36 pm

I have seen cases in which white men are discriminated against by admin or chairmen. But, not because women or minorities were preferred. Just because the admin or chairmen were jerks. Affirmation action does not mean that one goes overboard in terms of hiring minorities. It only means that we should all be judged on the same playing field. The problem is that past discrimination has set up on different playing fields. And so with the last hired first fired rules and the recession, blacks, latinos and women are the first to be cut because they have not been allowed on the playing field as long as white men. I don't know you Stinkcat, but I think that whoever made that throwaway comment about you does a disservice to all of us. I'm a talented professor who happens to be black/latina/native american/female. I've seen people like me and anglo americans like you discriminated against in education. But, the people inflicting discrimination on you and me don't care about the students or education. And since they do not belong in education in the first place, the way they treat you and me is decidedly...ignorant.

18. undeterred20 - November 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I've applied for a Provost position and the males faculty who have dominated the college for many years have been telling faculty that they will make sure that I can't get the job because I've "stepped on too many toes." In other words, I don't take marching orders from them.

19. laoshi - November 27, 2009 at 01:53 pm

@fidomere (#7): The word feminazi is not borrowed from Rush Limbaugh, but from Merriam-Webster's dictionary of American English.

@smitty1 (#13): Men don't play "the male victim card" because they are too busy being men. Someday you'll recognize that boob jobs and nice clothes are good for women, and you'll thank real femninists like myself for standing up for your rights.

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