Friday, February 20, 2015

How To Prevent "Double Jeopardy" From Jeopardizing Your Success

Double-jeopardy is attached and it's not the legal kind...

Several weeks ago I read a great LinkedIn article by Marianne Cooper that highlighted findings on gender bias in STEM fields. The focus of the article was a report published by Tools for Change in STEM which confirmed that gender bias does in fact exist in STEM fields. 

While I'm grateful that the study was performed and that Marianne brought additional visibility to the topic, I thought to myself - why do I need a study to validate what I already know to be true? 

Then I read (and reread) many of the details.


The current body of social psychological work on gender bias has focused almost exclusively on the experiences of White women...

Double-Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women in Science (pg. 4)


When I read that statement, I was glued to the report for the duration. I had to know more about what women of all types were revealing. For certain my personal and professional experiences would mirror those expressed by 60 scientists almost verbatim regardless of race or color, right? Almost - the report at once confirmed my experiences and enlightened me about how difficult this topic can be to examine.

Please Note!

The study's findings warrant a detailed examination by all professional women who are either just beginning their careers or who are well-underway - along with their leaders. While the study focuses on STEM careers, these same types of challenges are experienced in other professions as well. 

Because of reports like this one, today's career women have new opportunities to prepare effectively before they have to do battle as STEM leaders. It's a battlefield out there and that fact shouldn't be understated. Everyone should know what they're facing - and then do it anyway.


You have to be okay with being ostrasized in every way

Double-Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women in Science (pg. 48)


Though there are many efforts in progress to improve professional workplaces, there's a need for everyone in leadership to roll up their (our) sleeves and do whatever they (we) can to help resolve these challenges post haste.

As was so eloquently stated by Alibaba's CEO Jack Ma, " of the secrets of our success is that we have a lot of women." Many leaders and reports continue to point out that success in the 21st century requires more women actively engaged everywhere - especially in STEM. 

The 21st century keeps calling. Are we going to answer for gender equality in STEM or are we sending the call to voice mail? I predict that we will continue to answer the call.

Double-Jeopardy Bias Patterns Defined

Four STEM field bias patterns were examined (plus a short mention of sexual harassment) against the back drop of previous and current research. Bias categories include:

  • [1] Prove-It-Again
  • [2] The Tightrope
  • [3] The Maternal Wall
  • [4] Tug of War
  • [5] Sexual Harrassment (mentioned)

[1] Prove-It-Again refers to the persistent need to reinforce one's competence and capabilities even though both have already been consistently demonstrated.

[2] The Tightrope is that space between exhibiting caretaker behavior on the one hand and standing up for one's self on the other.

[3] The Maternal Wall occurs when a woman's commitment to her job responsibilities is questioned after motherhood even if she keeps up with her duties while managing her family.

[4] Tug of War highlights that both women and men show bias against women in male dominated fields and situations.

[5] Sexual Harrassment (mentioned) as legally defined simply must not be tolerated. Period.

So what is double-jeopardy in the STEM context?


Definition of STEM double-jeopardy:
Risk or disadvantage incurred from two sources simultaneously as in race and gender or race and age or gender and age


Resolution? Metrics-Driven Bias Interruptors

Recommendations in the report include the implementation of Metrics-Driven Bias Interruptors (see pg. 49 of the report) along with best-practices in recruitment, hiring, promotions, and tenure activities. These are sound ways to move forward in any organization or company, but can often take a while for results to show. After you review the report, encourage your teams and leaders to do the same in order to leverage its insights to build bridges towards the future.

While there is still much more to be done everywhere, the U.S. is currently positioned at 20 of 142 countries benchmarked according to the Global Gender Gap Index with a score of 0.746. Index categories include:

  • [1] Economic Participation and Opportunity
  • [2] Educational Attainment
  • [3] Health and Survival
  • [4] Political Empowerment

Okay - now that we have reports, numbers, perspectives, and context - what's next? We use the insights to build bridges towards successful outcomes.

I started out in male-dominated fields because I was interested in male-dominated subjects and no one stopped me - at least not for long. As a child I loved to play with bugs and mud pies in the back yard or I would examine squishy things in creek beds close to our home. Dad would often say to me "act like a lady" if I was climbing a tree or doing something else that was considered boyish. That's exactly what I was doing. I was acting like a STEM lady by exploring the world around me. 

I was curious about the inner workings of things so whenever I got a chance I would probe. I haven't stopped probing since and I never will. One has to be firm in their commitment to make a difference in STEM - or in any area of their choosing. 


We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves 
We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained

Marie Curie, First Woman to Win Nobel Prize (Only 2-Time Winner)


How To Prevent Double-Jeopardy from Jeopardizing Your Success

If you're considering a role in a STEM field or are already in one, you're doing your part so here are some ways to prevent double-jeopardy from jeopardizing your success.

  • [1] Prove-It-Again and Again - Do what you love and love what you do! There's a tremendous price to pay for shying away from an area because others don't want you there. If your passion and talents lead you to a specific field - scientific or otherwise, go there with all due haste. #YOLO (you only live once)! Surround yourself with a positive team of influencers, sponsors, mentors, coaches, and supporters who will help you to navigate. Don't go it alone! Make your success in STEM a team effort.

  • [2] Walk the Tightrope Backwards and in High Heels - Nurture strong positive attributes such as assertiveness, confidence, kindness, and ambition daily. Focus on your career trajectory and on being a positive influence on and with others. "Square off" when necessary if someone is being beligerant or deliberately jerkish to you. Otherwise play nice in the STEM sand box, but don't allow others to walk on you.

  • [3] Build Bridges Across The Maternal Wall - Becoming a mother doesn't guarantee you a sideline seat unless that's what you want. Evaluate your circumstances and make the best choices for you, for your child(ren), and for your family. If the company where you work doesn't support you having or raising valuable human beings, then find a new company! Better yet, build a new one.

  • [4] Get On The Right Side of The Tug of War Rope - Working with women (or men) can be frought with challenges if there are feelings of insecurity in the mix. When it comes to gender strength, team up with professional women to build strong "pink links" and expand your network based on your strategic plan. Don't have a strategic plan? Build one. Know your game and play it well. Let others play their own game.

  • [5] Don't Tolerate Sexual Harrassment - Period. End of story. Document, report, and move on if the issues aren't resolved right away in any environment where you find yourself. It may be a financial or professional inconvenience, but what price can you put on your self-worth or on your physical well-being? Remember your career will be over some day, but you will still be you.

Alrighty then - it's time to move forward. Lace 'em up and get ready for the climb! It won't be easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my article. If you would like to read more, just click on this linkLeave your relevant comments in the section below and let's keep the dialog going.

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