New Publication About Perceptions of Scientists with Disabilities in GEOSPHERE

The GRL is pleased to announce the publication of a new paper in GEOSPHERE, a journal of the Geological Society of America. The paper, Professionally held perceptions about the accessibility of the geosciences, is co-authored by Chris Atchison and Julie Libarkin. We discuss three related studies of scientists’ perceptions of people with disabilities, as well as the implications these perceptions have for moving the geosciences towards greater inclusivity and accessibility.

The abstract:

The geosciences are considered by many to be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. Challenging traditional perceptions of identity in the geoscience community is an important step to removing barriers for students and geoscientists with diverse physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities, and to broadening entry into the myriad fields that make up the discipline. Geoscientists’ views of the extent to which a disability would inhibit access to a geoscience career were probed through three separate studies. Results indicate that although opportunities for people with disabilities are perceived to exist in the geosciences, the discipline is considered more accessible to people with some disabilities than others. Most notably, people with hearing impairments are viewed as the most capable of engaging in geoscience careers, visual and cognitive impairments are considered barriers to engagement in geoscience careers or tasks, and people with physical disabilities are perceived as capable of engaging in all but outdoor tasks. We suggest that these individual perceptions result in multiple barriers for people with disabilities: perceptual barriers, training barriers, and community-level barriers. Reducing these barriers will require action across multiple levels to change individual perceptions, training pathways, and social norms for professional engagement.

Paper Wins 2016 Outstanding Paper of the Year from Journal of Geoscience Education

A paper published by the GRL in 2015 has been awarded the Outstanding Paper of the Year by the Journal of Geoscience Education! The paper, Using the Lens of Social Capital to Understand Diversity in the Earth System Sciences Workforce, is available for free online as  special offer by the journal. The paper was co-authored by (former) GRL postdoc Caitlin Callahan, Julie Libarkin, Carmen McCallum, and Chris Atchison. Well done everyone!

The paper’s abstract:

In this commentary, we argue that social capital theory, the idea that membership in a group creates opportunities to acquire valuable information and resources from other group members, is a useful framework in which to consider ways to increase diversity in the Earth System Sciences (ESS) and in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields more broadly. Existing literature documents numerous barriers to underrepresented groups’ participation in the sciences. These include a sense of isolation, a lack of visible role models, and a lack of trust in mentors or teachers. We discuss how these challenges impact acquisition of social capital and how lack of social capital affects career success and satisfaction. We conclude with recommendations for increasing diversity in the ESS through careful attention to building trustworthy professional relationships. In particular, the community should (1) recognize that trust must be built in order for students to feel connected to the larger community; (2) provide explicit guidance to students on different types of ties, how to build each type, and the value of each type in career development; and (3) train professionals to recognize their own social capital and best practices for imparting capital to students.


GRL-Affiliated Conference Paper Wins Award

A paper recently presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference was awarded the Second Place Research Award by the Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation Division!

The paper, Entrepreneurship Education for Women in Engineering: A Systematic Review of Entrepreneurship Assessment Literature with a Focus on Gender, was led by Christina Morton and co-authored by Aileen Huang-Saad and Julie Libarkin. Congratulations, Christina et al!

A synopsis of the paper:

The nation’s economic vitality and global competitiveness depends on the creativity and innovation of its citizenship. While institutions of higher education nationwide are being pressured to train and produce a highly skilled technical workforce, engineering schools are especially challenged with preparing their students to anticipate societal needs and translate their technical expertise into commercializable solutions. In response to this challenge, engineering schools have begun incorporating entrepreneurship education programs within their curriculums. Regardless of differences in size, scope, and student participation, generally, these programs are intended to provide students with fundamental business skills and foster an entrepreneurial mindset(Gilmartin, Shartrand, Chen, Estrada, & Sheppard, 2014).

While research has shown that entrepreneurship education programs do increase science and engineering students’ entrepreneurial intent (Souitaris, Zerbinati, & Al-Laham, 2007), potential differences in outcomes based on gender were not examined. Additionally, what is occurring within entrepreneurship education environments that might be influencing women’s entrepreneurial outcomes and experiences? Curious about how gender has been addressed in entrepreneurship education scholarship, we have conducted a systematic literature review of entrepreneurship education research to date as found in three databases (Scopus, API/INFORM, and ERIC) and extracted articles that specifically focus on gender. After applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, our search yielded 24 articles for this review.

In addition to synthesizing current entrepreneurship education research with an emphasis on gender, this review also provides recommendations for engineering education researchers who desire to examine how entrepreneurship education environments influence women. The purpose of this review is to guide future research on engineering entrepreneurship through a gendered lens. Further, this review serves to inform the development or improvement of existing engineering entrepreneurship education programs that seek to attract and retain more women.

Gilmartin, S., Shartrand, A., Chen, H., Estrada, C., & Sheppard, S. (2014). U.S.-based entrepreneurship programs for undergraduate engineers: Scope, development, goals, and pedagogies. Epicenter Technical Brief 1. Stanford, CA and Hadley, MA: National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation.

Souitaris, V., Zerbinati, S., & Al-Laham, A. (2007). Do entrepreneurship programmes raise entrepreneurial intention of science and engineering students? The effect of learning, inspiration and resources. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(4), 566–591. doi:10.1016/j.jbusvent.2006.05.002

The Media is NOT Reporting on University Sexual Harassment

Today is June 8, 2016. That means 22 weeks of the year have passed. In those 22 weeks, I have documented the reporting of 23 cases of sexual harassment and assault perpetrated by university faculty or administrators. These are only the cases I could find, and the number of actual cases is likely higher. In those 22 weeks, at least 12 lawsuits were also filed claiming harassment or assault by university faculty or administrators. Most of this harassment and assault occurred before 2016 – 2016 is the first time these cases were publicized. And the publicity usually occurred on a very local scale.

Here is a graph showing when the media first reported on the 23 confirmed cases of sexual harassment or assault:


Here is the same graph with the names of the perpetrators included. Six of these names are likely familiar to you because of national press attention to their cases (black). I would guess that most of you are unfamiliar with the 17 names in red:


What might explain the differences in press coverage? Let’s see:

1.Discipline. Maybe the media focus on specific disciplines over others. In 2016, we have seen well publicized cases in law, anthropology, astronomy, bioscience, and english. Doesn’t seem like much of a pattern, does it? Especially when you look closely at the disciplines of the less publicized cases and see that some of these disciplines experienced poorly publicized cases (Harwood is in bioscience, for example). You would also think that the media would want to publicize cases of people who really, really, really should know better – like the guy from criminal justice (Swindell). The media really, really, really needs to do a better job investigating and reporting on sexual harassment and assault committed by university faculty and administrators.

2. Type of harassment/assault. Well, you might say. Perhaps the perpetrators receiving national attention simply committed the worst offenses. Let’s see. This would mean that faculty/administrators who sexually assaulted students or colleagues would be at the top of the news page. Here are the perpetrators who were arrested or are being investigated for sexual assault. How many of these cases do you remember reading about? Sexual harassment is horrible in whatever form it takes, but the media sure isn’t reporting on the worst of the worst. 

2016: Mahmood G. Ghamsary, Loma Linda University. ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE FROM UNIVERSITY, ARRESTED.

2016: Youssef Taleb, Northern Virginia Community College. FIRED/JAILED/SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES FILED.


3. Type of institution. Let’s look at the schools where the sexual harassment occurred. The seven well publicized cases occurred mostly at elite institutions, both public and private. The remaining cases primarily occurred at community colleges, smaller regional institutions, and niche institutions. Oh, it’s elitism! Sexual harassment and assault committed by university staff is a problem no matter where it occurs! The media should do a better job covering all of the cases, not just an elite few.

  • Ott: California Institute of Technology, or Caltech
  • Slater: University of Arizona
  • Richmond: American Museum of Natural History
  • Lieb: University of Chicago (Princeton, University of North Carolina)
  • Latham: University of California-Riverside
  • Choudhry: University of California – Berkeley
  • Piterberg: University of California-Los Angeles, or UCLA
  • Wells: Kilgore College
  • Elsey: University of North Alabama
  • Swindell: West Virginia State University
  • Jones: Alabama A&M University
  • Lee: Grand Rapids Community College
  • Ghamsary: Loma Linda University
  • Markman: Ohio University
  • Harwood: University of Kentucky
  • Ellis: University of Iowa
  • Taleb:Northern Virginia Community College
  • Wang: Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Miller: Northern Kentucky University
  • Christensen: Columbus State University
  • Brule & Parker: Purdue University
  • Parisi: Texas Tech University

Hey, reporter! Yeah, you. How about doing your job? Stop following the easy stories, stop reporting on cases that only affect elite students. HARASSMENT IS A PROBLEM, AT ALL KINDS OF INSTITUTIONS. The media should be ashamed for falling down on the job. I don’t believe that the scale of the problem of faculty/administrator harassment will truly be felt until we have fair reporting that highlights harassment – wherever it may occur.*

*don’t get me started on the scale of the problem internationally. This is not just a problem for the U.S., but we have to start somewhere.



On The Awesomeness of Graduate Students

Sometimes it is so much easier to focus on the negative in life – and work – than the positives. This week I have been reflecting on how awesome my graduate students and postdocs are, both former and current. There is something transformative about working in a lab where lab members look out for each other, champion each others successes, encourage each other through stress, and come to work with a happy, positive demeanor. I am naturally prone to see the flaws in academia, so the lab makes me a more balanced scholar.

The event that triggered my feeling of “my lab is the best, holy smokes, I can’t believe these people work with me” was a simple request by a colleague. She had finished a single-authored paper and needed some fresh eyes on it. You know how it is when you have written something all by your lonesome – you can never quite tell if you are making sense. She asked me, and I asked the lab, if they could give her paper a read and send her comments. ALL THREE OF MY GRADUATE STUDENTS SENT EXTENSIVE COMMENTS WITHIN A FEW DAYS. These are all students who are working on their own projects, preparing for comprehensive exams, writing papers of their own. They got nothing for their work other than my and my colleague’s goodwill.

If I think back over time, I see a lab filled with students and postdocs like this. The undergraduates who helped train newcomers, the graduate students who have shepherded undergraduates through first research projects (and manuscript rejections and revisions), the postdocs who have spend hours training others on how to collect and analyze data. I know I do my share, but a positive work environment can’t rest on a single person’s shoulders. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing folks over the years!

I wonder, too, if working towards collaboration in our labs – rather than competition – could help make academia a more inclusive place overall. If we can see ourselves as all working towards a common goal with common goodwill, couldn’t we then start to chip away at the -isms (sexism, racism, ableism, etc.) that are plaguing academia today? A cultural mind shift is needed, and it is incumbent upon those of us with privilege to lead the way. And, yeah, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to mention the -isms.

Sexual Harassment/Assault in Academia – EVERY WEEK

For the past four months, I have been compiling sexual harassment/assault cases in academia – harassment or assault on students or staff that is carried out by professors, administrators, or entire departments. It took several months for me to track down and compile old cases. Today, the number of documented cases sits at 364…come back in a few weeks and I promise the number will have increased.

Now, I simply maintain the compilation by searching for new cases once a week. I would go crazy if I immersed myself in this every day, so I simply take a few moments on Mondays to check out what the internet has to offer. Once a week I search for combinations of “sexual harassment”, “sexual assault”, “professor”, “dean”, and similar terms. What surprises me the most is that EVERY week I find at least one case of sexual harassment/assault in academia. At least one professor, dean, or president who makes inappropriate comments, touches students or colleagues, asks for sexual favors in exchange for grades, assaults students or colleagues. Or, I find a lawsuit that was filed in the past week – a case of sexual harassment/assault that is still pending. EVERY week.

This morning? This morning I again had something new to add to the post. I found four typical examples of typical sexual harassment and typical sexual assault:

How anyone can look at this list and not recognize that academia has a problem is beyond me. Sexual harassment and assault by professors/deans/provosts/presidents are not flukes. Please don’t tell me they are. Do something about it, academia. Do something.

Gaslighting and Implicit Bias – Academic Style

So – I just got an email from an administrator. After discussing the business at hand, he ends the email by requesting that I change the “tone” of my emails. Setting aside for a moment that “tone” is not easily discernible in written correspondence, here are my issues with a male administrator telling me, a female faculty, to change my “tone”:

1) This is the same administrator who once sat across from me in a meeting and BEFORE I EVER SPOKE told me that I shouldn’t get emotional. Classic step on the slippery slope of gaslighting. In that meeting, he assumed I would have a “tone” before I ever even spoke.  More than anything else, it seemed like an attempt to silence me. Or, put another way, if  you discredit me before I speak, you won’t have to pay attention to what I am saying.

2) The “tone” the administrator objected to was my reasonable, and often repeated, request for policies and procedures for administrative tasks. How does the unit assign job duties, complete paperwork, spend funds on students, hire new faculty, etc.? The problem isn’t my “tone” – the problem is a fundamental disagreement about the place of equity, inclusion, and transparency in the academic workplace. I would argue that an effective working environment must include practices that promote equity (here, for an example, is a discussion of equity theory in the workplace).

3) Accusing a woman of having a “tone” is all about implicit bias. In my case, I think my administrator is engaging in prescriptive bias – essentially penalizing me for engaging in the traditionally male behaviors of being successful, promoting my (and my lab’s) successes, negotiating for resources, and making reasonable requests of the unit. This prescriptive bias leads to me being seen as problematic and not a team player.

The effect of the bullying and implicit bias I have experienced in the workplace (not to mention sexism) is that I am no longer as engaged in the success of my units and institution as I used to be. I am very involved with my lab, of course. Those few units I am affiliated with that explicitly promote equity and inclusion get most of the remainder of my attention. The units that are secretive, or which allow discriminatory behavior to persist, or which spend little to no time dealing with implicit biases (everyone has them!) simply won’t benefit from my time and attention. If I knew how to change things for the better, I would. As it stands, the best I can do is focus on impacting those spaces that are safe and inclusive and work to educate my students on the best mechanisms for navigating the rest of the world.