How Medical Communicators Can Counteract Gender Bias in STEM

Did you know that 52% of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) fields report experiencing gender bias, while only 2% of men in STEM do?

My colleague, Priyanka Jadhav, and I recently wrote an article on how medical communicators can combat the gender bias in STEM, currently featured in AMWA Journal.

Matic AI, Jadhav P. AMWA J. 2018;33:152-156.

Of particular relevance to medical communications and medical writing, there are far fewer female authors, peer-reviewers, and journal editors in STEM fields than there are men. As these metrics are usually gateways to notoriety, funding, and career success, it is important to be aware of the discrepancies and to try to level the playing field when possible.

What can medical communicators do?

  • Realize how and where gender bias exists in the relevant fields
  • Make a concerted effort to search for and include more content from female scientists and healthcare providers
  • Pass it on – educate and mentor colleagues on the issue
  • Read our article for more detailed information

Please get in touch if you would like to talk more about this topic or make any related changes to your workflow.

“Science is Awesome.” Dr. Rabiah Mayas is our Scientist of the Month.

Panoramic view of Mars from NASA's Pathfinder rover.

Dr. Rabiah Mayas was honored as April’s Scientist of the Month by the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women in Science. I had the pleasure of interviewing her. We met in her office at the Museum of Science and Industry, high above the exhibits of tornadoes, chick hatcheries, and a German U-boat, to discuss her career and her love of science.

Multicolored 3D renderings of participants heads.
The Fab Lab can scan and produce 3D models of participants heads. Courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry.

I couldn’t fit everything into the profile article; here are some more interesting nuggets that I learned along the way:

  • A Post-It-filled “Crazy Idea List” hangs on the wall outside her office, the result of a brainstorming session with her team at MSI.
  • The Fab Lab has a laser cutter where participants can make their own jewelry and holiday ornaments.
  • Rabiah manages an NSF-funded project, “The Art of Science Learning,” in which participants attend workshops on sculpture, jazz improvisation, and juggling. The goal of the project is to see if arts-based training increases scientific creativity.
  • MSI doesn’t house an active science research program on site, unlike other Chicago museums such as the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum.
  • The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft recently awoke after a 31 month hibernation on its way out to analyze a comet.

Is there somebody who you think deserves to be nominated for a Scientist of the Month award by AWIS-Chicago? Please let me know about a deserving individual who “promotes the advancement of women in the fields of science, technology and engineering (STEM).”

Science is coming to Chicago

In a few weeks, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will be held here in Chicago. Where else can you learn about Business Models for Biomedical Innovation AND Editing your own Papers at the same conference?

Chicago's skyscrapers reflected on the surface of Cloud Gate (more commonly known as the Bean), an art installation in Millennium Park.
Chicago’s skyscrapers reflected on the surface of Cloud Gate (more commonly known as the Bean), an art installation in Millennium Park. Image courtesy of Phaedra Wilkinson at morgueFile.

I’m thrilled at the breadth of the sessions, perfect for somebody like me who has an interest in many STEM fields. Here are a few of the topics that have me excited:

Science Sessions

Artificial Tissues Engineered to Improve Patient Well-being
Both ends of the age spectrum: Building Babies: Development, Evolution, and Human Health and The Science of Resilient Aging
Inventing New Ways to Understand the Human Brain
Your Genome: To Share or Not to Share?
Optics and Photonics: An International Perspective

Career Development Sessions

AuthorAID session – a project that helps researchers in developing countries write about and publish their work
Scholarly Publishing Innovations and Evolution
Women Poised for Discovery and Innovation

If you’re headed to the conference and would like to meet up, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Need a science writer to report on AAAS 2014? I’ve got you covered.

Beer and Science: a great pairing

Glasses of beer waiting to be tasted.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Pellettieri, a renowned sensory analyst for the brewing industry.  She was honored as November’s “Scientist of the Month”  by the Chicago chapter of Association for Women in Science.  You can find the profile article here.

In essence, Mary incorporates science into the beer brewing process.  The resulting beer can be significantly enhanced when brewing is viewed through a scientific lens.

Mary adds a scientific perspective in two major areas: quality control and sensory analysis.  A quality control program sets specifications for the brewing process and determines how well the instruments can measure those specifications.  A sensory analysis program aims to quantify the flavor components in beer.

In doing research for the profile article, I found some really interesting items that didn’t make the published version:

  • There is a Beer Flavor Wheel that sensory analysts and beer judges use to evaluate beers.
  • What is considered a defect flavor in most beers can be an accepted flavor in certain beer styles.
  • Most brewers test monthly (but as frequently as every batch) for contamination with bacteria and wild yeast strains.
  • Beer yeasts are characterized by their flocculation time, the point during fermentation at which the yeast clumps together and sinks to the bottom of the tank.
  • Servers can become a certified Cicerone (pronounced “sis-uh-rohn”) to prove their expertise in selecting and serving beers.
  • Some folks pursue a PhD in hop chemistry.

This list just scratches the surface of the ways science influences beer and brewing.  I was amazed and learned so much while I was talking to Mary and researching her article.

Want to learn more?  MoreBeer, White Labs, and How to Brew provide excellent scientific information for the novice and experienced brewer alike.  Happy brewing, learning, and drinking!

Computer Science: Processing Natural Language, Women’s Involvement

Tenth graders studying computer modeling.

Last week, the Chicago chapter of Association for Women in Science (AWIS) hosted its annual Innovator and Motivator Awards dinner.  Dr. Barbara Di Eugenio and Dr. Lily Rin-Laures were awarded for their leading roles in research and mentoring.

Dr. Di Eugenio was honored for her research on natural language processing.  She is working to improve the way a computer “understands” the spoken and written language.  She gave a great example to illustrate the concept.  Let’s say we are sitting at a dinner table together and I ask “Can you pass the salt?” and, hopefully, you hand me the salt shaker.  What if I ask “Can you run a marathon?”  You (hopefully) wouldn’t get up from the table and go for a jog.  More than likely, you would tell me that you ran a marathon last year.  But, how do you get a computer to understand the difference that we all intuitively grasp?  That’s what Dr. Di Eugenio concentrates her research efforts towards.  She was also the focus of a recent news piece from her institution, the University of Illinois – Chicago.

A thought-provoking comment was made by Dr. Robert Sloan, who nominated Dr. Di Eugenio.  Dr. Sloan, who is the head of the computer science department at UIC, said that women are majoring in computer science at lower rates now than they were 20 years ago.  This comes as a big surprise, considering all of the national attention that has been given to enrolling and retaining women in STEM fields within the last 5-10 years.  Dr. Sloan noted that he hears from companies all over the US looking for computer science graduates.  Good job prospects for that career!  Spread the word.