Biophysical Society Bulletin | February 2023

President’s Message

Notes to Self As my term as BPS president draws to a close, I findmyself reflecting on what we as a scientific society have accomplished in these short months. In the President’s Message in the De cember issue of the BPS Bulletin , Ex ecutive Officer Jennifer Pesanelli , with a little help fromme, summarized the outcomes of our strategic planning initiative, which brought into focus our values and goals moving forward. In

But perhaps a more tangible example of my efforts is the Black in Biophysics Presidential Symposium, borrowing the moniker, and the inspiration, from the Black in Biophysics movement. The symposium, a showcase event at the BPS Annual Meeting in February, features an amazing lineup of speakers talking not about the importance of diversity, which they are often expect ed to do as a highly demanding but uncompensated and poorly acknowledged side-gig. Instead, they will embody the true power of diversity with a superb scientific program as a new generation of trailblazers. Commentary will be provided by Bil Clemons and Theanne Griffith , who are leading advocates for the importance of such events. Related to the historical challenges of racism is the persistent and insidious problemof overt and subliminal bigotry toward women and other minoritized groups. Remember the Heidi and Howard experiment at the Columbia Business School in which two student groups were asked to evaluate the same high-profile resume, one under the name Heidi and the other, Howard? Both candidates were deemed highly qualified for the job, but the one group just didn’t like Heidi—she seemed aggressive, and they weren’t sure she could be trusted. Howard, on the other hand, was considered a great catch, a real go-getter. He was a good “fit.” It is true that likability has different criteria for men vs. women in our society, andmaybe there’s not much we can or should do about that. But we can, and should, stop this measure fromplay ing such an important role in our evaluation of candidates for jobs and leadership positions, and examine our unconscious biases that get in the way of building a more diverse and highly capable work force. In a study out of the University of Toronto reported in Administra tive Science Quarterly , African-American or Asian job applicants who “whiten” their applications by deleting references to race or culture receive more interviews than those who don’t (Kang, S. K., K. A. DeCelles, A. Tilcsik, and S. Jun. 2016. Whitened résumés: race and self-presentation in the labor market. Admin. Sci. Q. 61: 469-502). The effect is more than two-fold for African Americans, even when dealing with companies claiming to value diversity. Within BPS, we have worked hard over the years to promote women andminoritized groups; let us apply the same intention ality on the home turf of our own university departments and other workplaces. There, the barriers can be even greater. We know each other a little too well, like siblings, and the wish to evolve can turn into battles that are hard to win. I will be making efforts to “call in” my colleagues, rather than calling out. “I know you are, but what am I?” will not get me very far! As the award-winning writer and social commentator Roxane Gay said in her 2017Winter InstituteWI12 speech, “We no longer have time for allies and allyship. We cannot afford to allow ourselves the comfortable distance of allyship. The challenges the underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable face have to be challenges we are all willing to take on, too. Everything is

Gail Robertson

other monthly columns, I focused on issues like diversity, equity, and inclusion; mentoring; and the persistent challenges hindering real progress for women. In this month’s column, my last, I have a fewmore things to say about these matters, in part as reminders tomyself that there is much left to do. Rescue Parents “Career womenmust work like they have no family and parent like they have no job.” This was a viral meme in 2022 that reso nated withmany. For several decades, despite the challenges, we women hadmanaged to pull it off, mostly by gravitating to part ners wanting to share equally in home activities and obligations. It wasn’t easy, but a precarious balance making career and family possible was struck. Then came the pandemic, and the childcare so essential tomaking it all work evaporated. The density of workers at the lab bench diminished in response to the higher calling of children at home. Many mothers and fathers found themselves grounded at one end of the work-life teeter-totter. Those of us trying to keep the laboratory operation afloat can kvetch, but there is little we can do in the near term about the shortage of childcare and its day-to-day unpredictability. We need a more resilient childcare system that has more availability and a deeper pool of workers to fill in when the inevitable spread of illness affects them as well. As we try to regain our momen tum in this peripandemic time, we should rattle the cages of our universities, companies, and statehouses to domore to ensure a more stable, more equitable workforce by supporting more childcare services. In the meantime, we must continue to support the parents of young children in our employ by allowing the flexibility they need to tend to their children’s needs while main taining their own career trajectories. We ignore the issue at our own peril: many studies show that, in the absence of adequate childcare, women choose to work rather than have children. The ramifications for our future workforce, in all aspects of society, are obvious. Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! I have tried to usemy platformas BPS president to actively fight racismand other forms of bigotry. I still wonder whether writing this column is doing something, since I ammostly just sitting here.

February 2023



Made with FlippingBook Learn more on our blog