A draft bill introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, would promote the use of workshops “to increase awareness of implicit gender bias in grant review, hiring, tenure, promotion, and selection for other honors based on merit,” according to a news release issued by the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.
Although specific details on the bill or the workshops it proposes have not yet been given, I am skeptical that this would be the most effective way to change. Having workshops that people are required to attend, I think, often leads them to harbor resentment at the group that they perceive as needing special treatment. Additionally, such workshops are often only held annually or less, which doesn’t give nearly as much emphasis on the issue at it should. Personally, I think actual policies would do a better job of effecting change – policies that support the hiring and retention of women, and policies that support the needs of parent workers.
There were no actual scientists at the congressional hearing, but the one academic who was there had similar ideas. Donna Ginther, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who conducted research on women in academic science, suggested
The best way Congress could help women in academic science, she said, would be to improve their access to child care. She proposed allowing universities to support child-care facilities with the indirect costs that they take from research grants made to faculty members.
That’s a great idea. Now can we take it a step further and offer real incentives for those universities to do so, such as, I don’t know, legally requiring it? Or perhaps we could actually offer subsidized childcare to all citizens, like they do in some of the more progressive countries in Europe. Imagine, society as a whole taking on some of the burden of raising the next generation!