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Newsletter Week 44

December 18, 2019

How sexual harassment systematically limits women’s economic well-being. A struggle inside AI research: are there some problems that are too important for AI? Finally, male scientists toot their own horns more when describing their research. And it works.

Happy Holidays!

I wish all of you a very happy holiday season, and hope you are spending it with those you love. D&I In Practice will be on vacation for the next two weeks so I can do the same, picking back up the week of January 6. May 2020 be a year of progress on this mission we all care so much about--making the world a place where everyone can be fully themselves.


This Week in News and Research

1. Limiting Our Livelihoods: The Cumulative Effect of Sexual Harassment on Women’s Careers (America Association of University Women website)

Even more that the harrowing statistics (59% of women who have been harassed never reported...), this overview details the ways sexual harassment systematically limits women’s economic well-being. The damage harassment causes to women’s physical and mental health is just the start. This report also credibly links harassment with longer-term systemic problems women face in the workforce, including the pay gap, occupational segregation, and insecurity in retirement.


2. 1 Big Thing: A Tug of War over Biased AI (Axios Future newsletter)

This article outlines a growing split inside the research community. Can bias really be engineered out of AI? From the article:

“...A critical split divides AI reformers. On one side are the bias-fixers, who believe the systems can be purged of prejudice with a bit more math. (Big Tech is largely in this camp.) On the other side are the bias-blockers, who argue that AI has no place at all in some high-stakes decisions.”


3. In Published Work, Male Scientists Sing Their Own Praises More (Wall Street Journal)

There really is a confidence gap between men and women. But not the one you think. This study follows in a long line of research suggesting that the confidence gap is actually not about women’s under-confidence but men’s over-confidence.

This study looks specifically at language in medical journals, and finds that male authors more often tended to promote their research with superlatives like “ground-breaking.” Using this strong language ended up netting them more citations, which are important in hiring and promotion decisions in academic medicine. From the article:

“...men were 21% more likely to use stronger, more positive language than women, which the researchers think played a role in 13% more citations….“There is a benefit to promote yourself by using these terms,” says Anupam B. Jena, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and senior author on the study.”


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