Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 84: Noticing the Tailwind

Photo Credit:  WikiPedia
After reading Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed in the New York Times "Straight Talk for White Men" I was reminded about an online chat my computer tech class had with the computer tech class at Burlington High School, when one of my male students stood out and took ownership for the subtle things that male students do that are give messages to female students they are are not 'as welcomed' or 'as smart' in their computer tech class. I was taken back, but very proud of Darren. It is not every 17 year old boy who would have dared take than stand.
In this Op-Ed  Nicholas call  the advantage that white men recieve from an unconscious bias in society  a TAILWIND.

"It’s not that we white men are intentionally doing anything wrong, but we do have a penchant for obliviousness about the way we are beneficiaries of systematic unfairness. Maybe that’s because in a race, it’s easy not to notice a tailwind, and white men often go through life with a tailwind, while women and people of color must push against a headwind."

The piece includes many examples of unconscious bias in our society that systematically benefit both whites and men including a study by scholars, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, who studied the response to fictitious résumés sent out in response to help-wanted ads.
“John” was rated an average of 4.0 on a 7-point scale for competence, “Jennifer” a 3.3. When asked to propose an annual starting salary for the applicant, the professors suggested on average a salary for “John” almost $4,000 higher than for “Jennifer.”
Kristof, suggest that all of us, try to be aware of our unconscious biases, especially when it comes to people who don't look like us.    This is something I try to do frequently,  and 'frequently'  I do surprise myself in ways that makes me realize that ALL of us - male  or female - has unconscious biases that we must 'tune into'.

I remember discovering that despite my awareness of gender bias,  I found myself using male pronouns when I talked to my students about their future boss.  Ouch!  Me?  Well, I no longer do that, but I am still on the look out for my own unconscious biases.

One way you can start being more aware of your own biases is by taking the Harvard University Implicit Association Test   In this 10 minute test, you'll learn a lot about your own biases that can help you raise your awareness.  Give it a try!

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