Bias Prevention Training Overview

The goal of Bias Prevention Training is to transform the informal culture of the university by providing information to employees designed to help them understand and eliminate bias. Focus Groups and other methods of transforming the informal culture will be established. All methods will be infused with bias prevention educational strategies. These strategies will be designed to educate and mitigate biases by examining and rectifying issues that impact the retention and promotion of STEM-SBS female faculty on the campus.

Biases are personal, based on the individual’s ideology, institutional, and embedded in rules (written and unwritten), regulations, policies and procedures. This makes bias difficult to measure, recognize, or change. However, social science experts have found that biases affect hiring, evaluation, promotion, and institutional decision making (Sevo & Chubin, 2008). Therefore, bias literacy is one of the goals of JSU ADVANCE. This will involve education that fosters an understanding of bias, and an acceptance that biases do exist.

Laws have been enacted to address intentional biases from a legal standpoint. However, biases that are unconscious, unknown, deeply rooted, and subtly taught and learned, are difficult to redress through the legal system. Jackson State University has accepted the challenged to educate, mitigate, and eradicate biases at all levels of our institution. Social scientists will be instrumental in designing, implementing, and assessing the Bias Prevention Training component of this study. They will help design the intervention training sessions, and they will have a key role in conducting focus groups and interviews to gather information. The information will be used to design the initial surveys and focus groups, but it will also help guide adjustments that will be made as the study progresses (see The Social Science Research Model).

We propose a three step process to insure that all individuals in the institution are exposed to and understand the commitment to fair and equitable practices in the workplace. First, we will focus on education and awareness. Second, the emphasis will be on the implementation of strategies to eliminate bias. Third, the results and findings will be used to construct policies that will guide operations at the university.

The first phase of education and awareness will include a climate study, campus wide training sessions, seminars and workshops for administrators and faculty, and specialized workshops for STEM-SBS faculty, deans, and department chairs. Workshops and seminars will be modeled like those of previous ADVANCE awardees and experts in the field, such as the AAAS Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity. The second step of implementing and eliminating bias will be guided by the data collected in the first phase and research. Research indicates that women in STEM-SBS experience biases in hiring, selection, advancement, promotion and tenure, laboratory space, institutional support, departmental decision making, colleague acceptance, salary, etc. (Beyond Bias and Barriers, 2007). Therefore, these areas will be the initial focus of change. Baseline data from the climate study will also guide the prioritization of strategy implementation. Information from focus groups will help identify the areas of concentration specific to each STEM-SBS culture. The third step will use University-wide committees for the recruitment, retention, and promotion of female faculty trained to recognize and eliminate bias through formal policy changes.