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J Divers High Educ. 2012 Jun;5(2):63-77. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Promoting Institutional Change Through Bias Literacy.

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Center for Women's Health Research and Department of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry and Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI), University of Wisconsin-Madison; and William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin.


The National Science Foundation and others conclude that institutional transformation is required to ensure equal opportunities for the participation and advancement of men and women in academic science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). Such transformation requires changing the habitual attitudes and behaviors of faculty. Approaching implicit bias as a remediable habit, we present the theoretical basis and conceptual model underpinning an educational intervention to promote bias literacy among university faculty as a step toward institutional transformation regarding gender equity. We describe the development and implementation of a Bias Literacy Workshop in detail so others can replicate or adapt it to their setting. Of the 220 (167 faculty and 53 nonfaculty) attendees from the initial 17 departments/divisions offered this workshop, all 180 who completed a written evaluation found the workshop at least "somewhat useful" and 74% found it "very useful." Over 68% indicated increased knowledge of the workshop material. Of the 186 participants who wrote a commitment to engage in new activities to promote gender equity, 87% incorporated specific workshop content. Twenty-four participants were interviewed 4-6 months after attending the workshop; 75% of these not only demonstrated increased bias awareness, but described plans to change-or had actually changed-behaviors because of the workshop. Based on our sample of faculty from a Midwestern university, we conclude that at least one third of STEMM faculty who are invited will attend a 2.5-hr Bias Literacy Workshop, that nearly all will find it useful, and that most will complete a written commitment to promoting gender equity. These findings suggest that this educational intervention may effectively promote institutional change regarding gender equity.

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