Unconscious bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our views, our actions, and our decision-making ability. It is a cognitive shortcut that is automatically activated and affects how we think day to day. Unconscious biases develop and are maintained from our culture, our experiences and from the media we absorb. In the case of gender stereotypes if we are repeatedly exposed to experiences where females are seen as the caregivers, home makers that can unconsciously be reinforced. Likewise in science if all media coverage and our experiences are of white males in lab coats this can reinforce a gender stereotype around science careers.
Research shows that a shortage of women working in sciences and technology could be exacerbated by gender discrimination taking place early on in life. In a 2018 survey conducted by Accenture, 5,000 young people, teachers and adults responded, with 67% of teachers admitting that they had made unconscious stereotypes about girls and boys in relation to STEM subjects. We believe teachers can play a key role in challenging these narrow views in the classroom before they become too entrenched.
Therefore, work at the primary school level is key to nurture and enable the diverse talent pipeline to flourish, which will then positively impact on choices that young people make in relation to science careers.
Part of the Science4Everyone toolkit: A short animation introducing the concept of unconscious bias.
The Science For Everyone project aims to:
- Identify issues pertaining to Unconscious Bias (UB) and Stereotype Threat (ST) at the primary school level focusing initially on Gender and Ethnicity and its relation to science career ambitions.
- Offer training and a practical toolkit of resources for teachers to address issues around Unconscious Bias and Stereotype Threat.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the approach in establishing culture change within primary schools.
Find out more on the project website.