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xy Bias

I have been reading the excellent book, Whistling Vivaldi, on stereotype threat by Claude Steele;

WV book

and so was “happy” to find this article on gender bias, XY Bias: How Male Biology Students See Their Female Peers.  In Whistling Vivaldi, Claude Steele takes us through the historical development of the research that led to identifying “stereotype threat.”  He speaks of invisible external contingencies that impair performance of otherwise quite capable people.  From white people can’t jump to girls can’t do math, the research clearly shows that by triggering a stereotype people under-perform on tasks associated to the stereotype, and more importantly the “achievement gap” disappears when the task is presented as not connected to the stereotype.

These external contingencies are omnipresent for the group in question, constantly creating a stressful environment that has also been shown to lead to negative health consequences.  In our article this week, Ed Yong writes about the implicit biases women face in pursuing STEM fields: “These biases, sometimes manifesting outrightly and sometimes insidiously, collectively create an environment where women feel like they don’t belong, like they aren’t valued, like the odds are set against them. Confidence falls, perseverance wanes, and careers die by a thousand cuts.”

For my students I included some of the data tables and graphics in their quiz from the research paper the article is citing.  In QR classes we talk about empowering our students to have a voice and confidently ask questions of experts.  To do so they need the requisite skill set to follow arguments based on quantitative evidence.  It is one thing to read an article and nod in agreement when they state males “disproportionately nominate other men” at a rate 19 times that of women nominating other women; but it is another thing entirely to dig into the original source and verify this statement.  Data is not so clear-cut, and we need to teach our students the skills they need for such analysis.

XY Bias Quiz 

  1. In the article, XY Bias: How Male Biology Students See Their Female Peers, the table below shows student demographics from 3 classes and nomination data when students were asked to nominate “students who they felt would do particularly good in the course.”  These nominations occurred at the beginning of the semester and after examinations during the semester.
    xy bias table

    1. How does the table indicate gender bias?
    2. Consider the mean number of nominations at S5 in Class C. What is the percent difference in nominations that neb received compared to women?
  1. The article, XY Bias: How Male Biology Students See Their Female Peers, states that “celebrities”, top 3 students in each class with most nominations, were all male as depicted in the graphic below.
    xy bias graphic

    1. The research article states that students for all 11 perception surveys conducted across the 3 classes, students received an average of 1.20 nominations with a standard deviation of 1.85. What is the z-score of the dude who got 52 nominations?
    2. The article contains the confusing statement: “the team found that male students still disproportionately nominated other men, giving them a boost equivalent to a GPA increase of 0.77. By contrast, the female students showed no such biases, giving other women a paltry boost of just 0.04 GPA points.” In the research article the 0.04 boost is explained as follows: “Averaged across the 11 surveys, females give a boost to fellow females relative to males that is equivalent to an increase in GPA of 0.040; i.e. they would be equally likely to nominate an outspoken female with a 3.00 and an outspoken male with a 3.04.”  Explain the 0.77 boost mentioned above.
    3. Why is the “male nominators gender bias 19 times the size of the female nominators”?
  2. Page 79 in DLS, use the numbers 2,464,000 and 12.7 from Table 2 in a meaningful sentence or two.
  3. Page 84 in DLS:
    Use the number 84.7 for All Women in a meaningful sentence.
    Assume in 2009 that White Women now have a Mean Referral Rate of 86.3 and  compute their odds of referral.




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