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The Sciences

Gender Bias Bingo

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumNovember 2, 2009 9:51 PM

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Last week, this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education hit my inbox from a reader named 'Basma'. And then from 'Jessica' followed by 'Cheyanne'. The link continued trickling in over the weekend... Apparently readers are aware I occasionally have something to say about gender bias in academia (and out and somewhere in the space between). My friends 'round thesetangledseries of tubes don't put up with that sort of riffraff either. The piece begins like this:

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.

Clicking the link led me to:

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Visitors to this site are asked to choose a square and submit a representative story or quote from their experiences. The goal is to teach more of us to recognize gender bias while demonstrating the ways it can push women away from an academic career path. Director Joan C. Williams also explains the noteworthy economic angle:

"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."

While it's too early to tell how the mission of Gender Bias Bingo will play out, it's certainly a unique new initiative. Not only does the game highlight the myriad of struggles facing women in the ivory towers, but it serves as a kind of tangible record--a visible means to display the ugly marks left across academia by such behavior. In a small way, this might reflect that gender bias is less acceptable than ever. At least, I hope so.

What do readers think?

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