Implicit Bias

Hello all! Purdue has a very active Women in Engineering Program (WIEP)…because we are a huge engineering university, the administration has put in a lot of effort to make sure we are constantly recruiting women and other minorities, as well as making them feel welcome/included once they arrive. I think this is awesome!

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, and I think it had a ratio of about 50:50, male:female. I was a part of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and understood that females are not typically encouraged to become engineers, but I didn’t directly feel the effects of that. However, once I entered graduate school as a Mechanical Engineer (ME), I saw a different picture. Only about 10% of MEs are female. I had never been in such a male-dominated environment before, and it definitely became something that I was acutely aware of. Perhaps because of this, I became more involved with the WIEP: both in outreach to elementary schools and the Graduate Mentoring Program (GMP).

The GMP is a resource for females who are pursuing a graduate degree in any discipline of engineering. The main activities of this group are monthly meetings where a different topic is explored. We had a meeting last night, and we discussed implicit bias. I thought this was extremely interesting, and although I usually focus on running/fitness on my blog, I thought some of you may be interested in this as well.

The basic idea is that everyone has some level of privilege based on your gender, race, socio-economic status, location, etc. Because you feel some inherent association with those who fit in the same groups as you (e.g. all of us who are runners automatically feel like we share a bond, although that is obviously a positive example :D), you also generally have some implicit bias against others outside of your group. Everyone has some level of implicit bias, but by identifying your personal biases, it can help to address them head on. Here are a few facts about implicit bias:

At Purdue we have a large population of international students, so at this GMP meeting when we broke into groups to talk about the different groups we identify with, and how we perceive those groupings (positive vs. negative, large influence vs. negligible influence, etc), it was interesting to hear the opinions of some students with very different backgrounds than my own. It basically showed that I have privileges in some areas that I don’t even notice/recognize–one example of this is being a US citizen.

One neat thing that you can do to test for any personal implicit biases that you might have is to take theseย online quizzes. These are actually rather legitimate quizzes from researchers at Harvard, not some random Buzzfeed quizzes (not that I don’t indulge in some trashy Buzzfeed quizzes every once in awhile ;), so you should check it out. I’ve done a couple and was pretty happy with one of the results:

Apparently I’m convinced that females are meant to be associated with science. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for the tangent today–I just thought it was an interesting message and I wanted to share!


2 thoughts on “Implicit Bias

  1. I think this is a really important topic that is frequently misunderstood, so I'm glad you addressed it on your blog. It drives me crazy when people say something like “I'm poor therefore I don't experience privilege” while being a straight, white, male, U.S. citizen. I guess people assume that having some degree of privilege means that their life should be completely trouble free – which is not at all what it means!


  2. I totally agree! It's easy to think you don't have any privilege, when in reality you probably just have a different form of privilege. Glad you enjoyed the topic! ๐Ÿ™‚


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