Nova (1974–…): Season 48, Episode 6 - Picture a Scientist - full transcript

Women make up less than one-quarter of the amount of people employed in STEM, and the number is even smaller for women of color.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
The word that people often use
is that I was "triggered."

I had a three-year-old daughter,

and she came to the lab
with me one weekend.

I had told her that I was a
scientist before,

and I don't think it
had really clicked in her mind

that I was actually a scientist.

And so she came
to the lab with me,

and I had my booties,

and I was wearing a Tyvek suit,
gloves, and goggles...

The whole getup.

And she looked at me,
and she was just, like,

"You really are a scientist,

And then she said, "I want to be
a scientist just like you."

And that was the
horrible, like...

...sort of lose-it triggering
moment that I have ever had.

And, um...

I actually...

...started crying
at the time.

And I, you know, she's three,

so she doesn't understand
why I'm crying.

And so I told her that they
were happy tears.

But they weren't just
happy tears.

I was thinking about someone
treating her like trash

in 20 years, like I had
been treated like trash.

The one thing that I could do to
help her the most

is to try and make the whole

something that is welcoming
to women,

and that was something
that I hadn't done.

We all have images in our head.

We have images of

what a woman is like,
what a man is like.

When you ask somebody,

"Draw a picture of a scientist,"
it used to be

all men.

We were just trying to be

We certainly didn't want
to be seen

as troublemakers or activists.

The big picture is that women

are extraordinarily
underrepresented in science.

The message that's given is that

you somehow don't belong here.

There's a playbook,
and it was written by men.

And the men pick up on it.

They know what the plays are,

and I always felt I didn't have
the playbook.

You know, I'm just sort of
feeling my way

through this, this game.

There's your standard
striped version.

beautiful little fish.

And if you see,
the males are very slender,

and the females
have the large belly.

Generally a good sign

they're going to lay eggs.

I'm Nancy Hopkins, and I was
professor of biology

at M.I.T. for 40 years,

and I retired three years ago.

Ah-hah, this is a picture
of Greta.

So this was, this was the first
experiment we did,

really, in zebra fish.

We were still just learning
the system.

At the time,
I was taking care of the fish,

so I was in the fish room,

I was literally in the lab
365 days of the year.

This is actually looking down
on a fish embryo.

And about this time,
there's about a thousand cells.

I think about a thousand.

And four of those thousand cells
are going to go

and become the sperm or the eggs
of that fish,

and those are the four cells.

And then they begin to divide.

When I was about ten,
my mother got cancer.

In that generation, the word
"cancer" was so terrifying,

you didn't say the word.

And so she was terrified,

and that certainly made a big
impression on me,

and I'm sure that's partly why
I was interested

in cancer research later on.

I went to a small, private
girls' school in Manhattan.

They didn't teach a lot of math
and science

to girls in my generation,

because people thought girls
didn't like

or need much math or science,

but I took everything they
offered and loved all of it.

I went to Radcliffe.

I was 16, I guess,
when I started.

In the spring of junior year,

I signed up for this course
called Bio 2.

Jim Watson came in, and one hour

I was a different person.

He and Francis Crick had won
a Nobel Prize

for discovering the structure
of DNA.

This genetics,
this molecular biology,

it was the answer to all
of the questions

I'd ever had about everything;
this is what life is,

this is how it works.

It's going to explain

everything that living things do
and can do.

I couldn't imagine going on
without being near this science.

I just had to be near this.

I started working in
Jim Watson's lab

as an undergraduate.

It was absolutely thrilling, and
I thought, "Well, I'm happy."

However, there was this odd,
funny thing that happened.

Francis Crick was coming
to visit the lab,

and he was going to give a talk.

And this was enormously
exciting, because, of course,

Jim just thought Francis
was a genius.

I thought Jim was a genius.

Jim thought Francis was a

wow, how smart could this guy

So I was very excited Francis
was coming,

and I was sitting at my desk
in this little lab,

which was adjacent to
Jim's office.

And the door flies open.

I was in the room alone, and
there's standing Francis Crick.

He comes flying across the room,

puts his hands on my chest
and breasts,

and says,
"What are you working on?"

You know, looks at my notebook

and says,
"What are you working on?"

And I was so startled,

I didn't quite know
what to say or do.

So I sort of straightened up and
said, "Oh, well, here",

"let me show you this,
I'm doing this experiment.

Somehow, this,
I'm trying to do this."

And at the time, the word
"sexual harassment"

didn't exist... it
wouldn't have crossed my mind.

So I just didn't want to make
a fuss.

I didn't want Francis to be

I didn't want Jim to be

I just tried to pretend nothing
had happened.

Not losing the keys to the car

is the most important part
of field work.

And hiking.

This is an area of coastline in

that is really being impacted
by cliff retreat.

We're really interested in

figuring out how fast

sea level rise is going
to impact

the coastal zones.

I'm Jane Willenbring.

I'm an associate professor
at Scripps Institution

of Oceanography,
which is part of U.C. San Diego.

One of the things that I think
is great about being someone

who studies how landscapes
change over time

is that it is so incredibly

for maintaining our way of life,

One of the ways that we're
trying to create resilience

and adaptability to climate
change impact

is through figuring out what
will happen to

coastal areas.

One of the things that

drew me to Earth science

when I was starting my degree
was, you get to use

all of the different kinds
of science

to really understand how we are
impacting the Earth,

and people were arguing
at the time

about whether there was going to
be this massive deglaciation

of East Antarctica
if we warmed the Earth

just a couple of degrees.

Field work in Antarctica seemed
like a perfect, you know,

trajectory for my science life.

I decided to go to

Boston University to get
a master's degree.

I started the program in 1999.

I was going to work with
Dave Marchant,

looking at the glacial history
of a part of East Antarctica.

He was a really important person
in the field.

He even had a glacier named
after him.

And I was incredibly thrilled
to get the opportunity to go.

It was like a dream come true,

So we were going to head out
in the field in early December.

It actually takes a long time
to even get there.

We went from Boston to
New Zealand,

New Zealand to McMurdo,
and then finally,

we go out with all of our tents
via helicopter

into the field, and then we were

just there.

It's such an incredibly
blue sky...

the bluest sky, maybe,

that I've ever seen in my life.

You just have rock

and mountains and ice as far
as you can see.

It is like nowhere else.

There were four people
in the group.

So there was Dave Marchant,
his brother, and then also

a master's student from the
University of Maine,

Adam Lewis.

The order of things,
in, in some cases,

is quite jumbled in my mind.

I do know that there was a
definite break between

when we were in, even McMurdo,

when we were surrounded by
other scientists

and program officers from the
National Science Foundation.

And it wasn't until we got
to the field

that sort of
the filters were off.

There was some
"Saturday Night Live" skit.

Jane, you ignorant slut.

Dave would start off from that
sort of pop-culture reference

to just calling me a slut, and
then "slut" went to "whore,"

and then "whore" went to

We'd have to deal with all of
these stories

about how slutty I was,

and how I'd be good for
this person,

who is a helicopter pilot, or
this person, who is his brother.

And I just wanted to talk
about science.

At one point,
he decided to just,

every time that I had to go
to the bathroom,

just throw rocks at me.

Little tiny pebbles most
of the time.

So there are no trees to hide

no bushes or anything like that.

It was so embarrassing and

demeaning, and so I stopped...

I stopped drinking water during
the day

so that I wouldn't have to go
to the bathroom as much,

and I ended up getting
a bladder infection.

And eventually, there was blood
in my urine,

and I've actually had, had
sort of bladder problems

ever since that time.

We were looking for ash inside
of these belts of sediment

and, and boulders that form on
the margins of glaciers.

These ashes can be dated,
and so they're great to find.

So he had a little bit of ash
on this little metal scoop.

He motioned to lean in.

And so I looked, got down really
close to be able to see

the individual crystals
in the ash.

And at that point,

he just breathed onto the spoon
really quickly,

and the glass shards went
into my eyes.

While I was doubled over in

Dave looked at everybody and
sort of shrugged and said,

"Oops, that went a little
too far."

I remember I was trying to get
up a really steep slope.

It was covered with moveable

So every time I would try to
take a couple of steps up,

I would just naturally slide
down one step worth.

So it was incredibly frustrating

to go up and down this thing.

Dave was at the top
at one point,

and I had just gotten about

three-quarters of the way
up the hill,

and he grabbed
the back of my backpack

and just pushed me down
the hill.

I remember just sort of weeping

at the bottom of this hill.

And I just decided at that

to just sort of let everything
kind of wash over me

and that I was just going
to decide to do something later.

I didn't know how long that
later would be,

because my future was still
in his hands.

After we got back and then the
year after.

And so it just became sort of
this, like, later, like,

this point on the horizon.

I'd like to welcome all of you
to this convocation

on a most important topic.

Together, we can do better,

addressing sexual harassment.

The best estimates are, about

50% of women faculty and staff

experience sexual harassment,

and those numbers have
not really shifted over time.

If you think about science,

right now, we have a system that
is built on dependence,

really singular dependence,
of trainees,

whether they are medical

whether they are undergraduates,
or if they're graduate students,

on faculty for their funding,
for their futures.

And that really sets up
a dynamic

that is highly problematic.

It really creates an environment

in which harassment can occur.

Generally speaking, sexual forms
of sexual harassment...

like come-ons,
unwanted sexual advances...

those are actually the rarest
forms of sexual harassment.

They actually don't happen
very much.

Mostly you see put-downs.

We use the metaphor of an
iceberg to really get across

the various forms of
sexual harassment.

What's gotten most of the

is unwanted sexual attention,

Those are in the public eye,

and I think everyone would agree

we absolutely need
to address those.

And then you have all the stuff
that's underneath.

Those are actually more than 90%
of the sexual harassment.

You know, the subtle exclusions,

being left off an email,

not being invited to a

where you're the clear expert.

Just these little moments that
make a woman feel

like she doesn't belong, that's
a really common experience.

We found that consistent
gender harassment

actually has the same impact
as a single episode

of unwanted sexual attention
or coercion.

So it is not something
to be ignored.

This is our shared lab facility.

So all of the chemistry

have lab space,
some corner of it, here.

I'm Raychelle Burks.

I am an assistant professor
of chemistry.

So we make sensor arrays.

When they're exposed
to different environments,

they have chemical reactions
that they'll undergo.

So it might be something

like phenolphthalein,

which, anyone who's watched,
like, the crime shows,

and it's, like,
"We found this," you know...

They swab something, and then
it's, like, drop, drop,

another bottle, drop, and
they're, like, "It's blood."

And it's gone from being
colorless to being bright pink.

The things I'm trying to find
are usually

the nefarious things.

So biological and chemical
weapons, explosives.

I design systems to find those.

The types of tests I'm building

are for natural disaster/
war zone situations,

where you're trying to do
a quick screen.

And it could be Hurricane Maria
or Hurricane Harvey.

Especially Flint.

Flint residents filed a federal
lawsuit accusing

the city and state of
endangering their health

by exposing them to dangerous
lead levels

in their town water...

Flood waters in New Orleans are
full of sewage and bacteria

that can make people sick.

Federal officials joined local
agencies in urging...

You know, from a social justice

people still need some kind of
testing metric

and to get an answer,

especially in that kind of

You know, is there some type
of test

where you're not pricing
the user out of it?

That's what my group does.

By using all of this information
and statistics,

get to the point where

the final product,
we hand it off to the user,

and what they get is
a simple-to-use test.

Like, kind of on the pregnancy
test, where it's, like,

"Okay, so double lines means...

What again?
Single line means..."

You know, like...

But you have, like,
that little diagram.

I grew up in the L.A. area.

Very big high school, 3,000.

And the classes are packed.

I don't remember any teacher in
high school being, like,

"You can do it,"
in the sciences in any way,

but I just kept showing up.

It's funny, a lot of the
scientists I think of

growing up are actually
fictional characters.

To boldly go where no man has
gone before.

Like, Uhura was a scientist.

Progress report.

I'm connecting the bypass
circuit now, sir.

And she was in charge of comms,

but really, she was a scientist.

Going through college, you know,

there were no Black women
chemistry professors

that I had.

I heard that they existed,

But I never had any.

I went to get a PhD in chemistry

so I would have
more employment options.

There are lots of things I love
about the sciences

and I love about academia
and my job.

But then there's also some
real bull(bleep).

In academia,

as women of color,

we're going to have different
types of abuse

from different people.

I remember when I was in my
office once,

sitting at my desk,
at my computer.

Like, I've got, you know,
papers spread out.

And someone comes into my
office, and for some reason,

assumes I'm the janitor.

I mean, I've been in meetings

where you've made a suggestion

or said,
"Well, what about this?"

And it was like
you'd never spoke at all.

But if a white guy says it,
you're, like...

And now it'll magically be
heard, everybody watch this.

Sometimes you get these critical

and criticism is something that,
as a scientist,

you have to get used to.

But I think it's,
is it appropriate?

There's been some cases where
I'm, like,

"Wow, this is wildly

You don't get to just

say what you'd really want
to say.

Like, "How dare you?"

I'm going to be seen as, like,

the angry Black woman trope
anyway, but you have to, like,

"Okay, how do I minimize that?"

So you spend all this time
trying to craft a response

or an approach of how to, like,
deal with it.

It may not seem like
a long time... five minutes,

ten minutes, 15 minutes,
20 minutes.

And I think about all of that
time added up.

That's time I'm not spending

on grants, on writing papers,

on networking with my peers,

on just doing research with my

because I'm trying to navigate
these oppressive systems

that people who are not in the
marginalized communities,

not only do they not have to do
that, they don't even...

It doesn't even register.

It's not something that they
even think about,

let alone it being a time suck
in their schedule.

You have to remember that,
because I'm, like...

"How's this person, like, able
to do, like, all this stuff?"

And then you're, like, "Oh."

"That's because they're not
having to do any of that stuff."

You know, and that's, that's
the other thing

you have to kind of remember.

When you're starting out in

it's kind of like getting
an airplane up off the ground,

you know, you've got to get...

You've got to get going.

Make enough discoveries

that you can become known.

So I just kept working.

A couple of years passed,

and suddenly I was called by

and asked to apply
for a faculty job.

But I did begin to have trouble
as a junior faculty.

These post-docs,

I think, saw you more
as a technician

than a faculty member.

The reagents you made and so

they saw it as just a...

They could just go and take
anything they wanted,

because after all,
what were you?

You were just a technician,
I guess.

I'd have to wait to use my own

and they would take things out
of the incubator.

Just take them, you know,

and I didn't want to tell them
not to, because in that era,

women had to be nice to
everybody, they had to be

polite to everybody.

You couldn't, you know,

be unpleasant,
or people would say,

"Oh, there's that nasty,
difficult woman."

And then everybody would
avoid you.

So I was,
didn't want to do that.

And the other thing I found is,
I started publishing papers,

and then I found you'd publish
the papers,

and you would have trouble

getting credit
for the discovery.

Everybody feels that way
in science.

Everyone thinks their work
is undervalued,

and they're under...
Everyone feels that way.

But I thought, "No, this is
somehow different."

And, again, I didn't tell
anybody that,

because they, who's going
to believe you, you know?


So I just kept working,

and I got promoted to associate

and I guess the letters were
very, very good that came in.

So I got tenure.

I began to have these
significant problems.

It was probably about 1990,

I was going to set up
zebra fish.

You can do genetics in fish,
genetics of behavior,

and I needed to get
200 square feet of space

to put the fish tanks in,
and I couldn't.

One man said to me,
"You don't think you could

really handle a bigger lab,
do you?"

And I went to the people
administering the space,

said I'm senior faculty,
and I had less space

than some junior faculty.

The man said, you know,
"That's not true."

So I literally thought, "Okay,
I have to show him it's true."

Took a tape measure,

and I would go around the

when there weren't people there,
and go into the lab,

and I would measure the lab,
write down the space.

And I would color in the spaces
that each person had,

so I could tell how much space.

And I'd keep a chart,
and I'd add it up,

so it took a lot of time.

My idea was that then I would
demonstrate, "Here's the data.

I have less space, so how
can you argue with this?"

But when I got the measurements
and showed them

to the person who was in charge
of space,

he refused to look at them.

And that's when I became a
radical... activist, I guess,

against my wishes.

You know, I expected science

to be working really hard
for something,

and I was completely sort of
set up

for that being the case.

In fact, I enjoyed the struggle

and hardship of doing field

especially when I was younger

and my bones didn't creak
so much.


So I was accustomed to that
kind of struggle,

and adding to that with a kind
of struggle

that's completely unnecessary
and gratuitous

was hard to handle,
and did make me think

about quitting a couple of

I had...

I had other jobs picked out.

I would see a bus pass
and think,

"Bus driver, that sounds pretty

The things that really
got me the most were

him telling me that
I'm (bleep) stupid

and that I'll never have
a career in science.

Those things that sort of got
under my skin

in terms of my competence and my
abilities as a scientist,

I never really stopped thinking
about those.

I didn't really tell many
people at all.

It was really something that
I didn't talk about.

So I just kept doing my work.

I finished my PhD,

then I did a post-doc,

and then took
a faculty position.

And the whole time, I'm thinking

a little bit in the back of my
mind that, you know,

"Remember, you sort of told

that you were going
to do something about this?"

And I just never did.

Look at that structure
on the beach.

Oh, yeah, they're doing some
construction on that building.

Mm-hmm, yeah.

It's been a while since we've
been on the beach, huh?

It's been raining so much.

Oh, we should remember
where our shoes are.

Remember, we made that mistake

I knew he was still
a faculty member there,

and I'd heard
through the grapevine

that he was
still harassing women.

After that day with my daughter
in the lab, at that point,

I realized that, you know,
I had tried to create

an environment that was very
science-friendly for her,

and done all of the things

that women do to try to get
other women

or their children into science.

The one thing, though,
that I could really do

was something that
I hadn't done.

I went and

wrote the Title IX complaint,
the first draft of it,

that night.

And it was, it was a bit
liberating, I have to say.

It was 17 years after the fact.

I definitely waited until after
getting tenure.

I told Adam Lewis,

the person who was in the field
with me.

I'd always imagined saying

about how badly I was treated

during that field season,
and I was expecting him

sort of to say, "I don't want
any part of this."

And instead, he said that

he's always felt guilty about
that field season,

and that he'd be happy to write
a letter.

This conference,
like a lot of science spaces,

there's always a bit
of discomfort.

It's not designed for
my comfort.

And it's not designed for a lot
of people's comfort.

It can be, you know,
very majority-heavy.

And you'll have things, like,
people will call out, like,

"That's a manel!"

You know,
like, all men on your panel.

"That panel is whiter
than the cast of 'Friends.'"

As a field, we have not
made the place

very accessible and inclusive.

I remember I was parking

in the faculty lot, where
you need a faculty sticker,

which was on the front
of my car,

and I pulled into a faculty spot

because I am faculty
with a faculty sticker.

And this other person who was
clear... I mean,

I'm assuming maybe
she was on staff.

She leans out the window
and yells at me,

"Do you work here?
Are you faculty?

'Cause this is a faculty lot."

And I said,
"Yes, I have a faculty sticker,

and I'm going to park here."

And she looked so... she was,

"Well, I've never seen you

And I, like, went,
"And I've never seen you."

And I just pulled in
and then went.

I think the higher you go up the
ivory tower,

the whiter it gets, and the more

and the more hetero,

the kind of majority-dominant

come out.

I mean, the fact that you can
still report on how many,

you know, women presidents there
are of institutions,

how many chairs, how many deans,

you know, the numbers are so low
that you're reporting on them.

You know, academia is especially
historically marginalizing...

you can be very isolated.

You get used to being

You get used to being treated
a bit shabbily.

People can insult us to our face

with inappropriate language
and derogatory terminology,

but we're the ones that are
supposed to be

respectful and civil.

And it's not that
you take it personally.

You just don't expect
any different.

You know, for a long time,

you try to fit,
or put the face forward

that you are this, whatever
they've built science to be.

That you talk a certain way,
and you look a certain way,

and you try to fit into that.

And even when you do all that,

you're still not considered
one of them.

But you just get used to that.

You get used to being

invisible in the sciences.

It's weird, 'cause you're
invisible in that way,

but then you're hyper-visible,
'cause people are, like,

"But why are you here?"

Wow, oh, wow, okay, so...

This was my office.


And that was my lab when I was

a junior faculty member.

I spent so much of my
life there.

Yeah, so I was doing these

and I tended to do them at
night, because I really thought,

you know, people would
think it very odd.

"What are you doing?",
and I didn't really want

to explain to anybody,
so I would go at night

and odd times, and dinner times,

when people weren't around, with
my little tape measure here,

and I would measure
all the spaces.

And I do remember one night, I
was in this room,

which I guess no longer exists
in the format it used to.

And I was, had my measure out.

I was doing the measuring.

And somebody unexpectedly...
It was very quiet...

but somebody unexpectedly walked
into the room and saw me,

and I remember freezing and
thinking, "Uh-oh."

"Uh-oh, my cover is blown.

"Now they're going to wonder

what am I doing here,"
so it was an odd thing.

I was a full professor.

So what was this woman doing
creeping around in the night

with a tape measure,
measuring the lab space?

I expected to fight alone.

I didn't expect anybody else
to fight

with me, but I really knew
that I was right.

I decided I was going to give
M.I.T. a last chance.

I didn't go back to the provost,
because I was embarrassed.

You know, at first,
I had this problem,

now I've got another problem.

So I wrote to the president of
M.I.T., and I said,

"There's a kind of systemic

and invisible discrimination
against women."

And I wrote this letter,
and I showed it

to another woman faculty member,

so she can see whether
it would be

understandable to the president.

And if she approves of that,
I'm sending it.

And the woman that I chose was,
of course,

this woman I had revered for
so long,

and that was Mary-Lou Pardue.

From time to time,
Nancy and I would get together

and talk about things,
and so she

had wanted me to, to see what
I thought about the letter.

I asked her to have lunch.

We went to Rebecca's Cafe,
which was just down the street.

We sat in this little corner

noisy lunchtime crowd,
and I had my letter.

She looks very serious.

And we've never talked about
gender issues,

and I think she's going to think
I'm just some loser, you know,

who really isn't good enough.

Maybe she thinks
I'm not good enough,

and that's why these things
are happening to me.

I had no idea, so it was very

and humiliating
to ask her to do this.

She reads the letter slowly,

and I'm watching,
and I'm so anxious, because

I think she's thinking badly
of me.

She gets to the bottom,
and she says,

"I'd like to sign this letter,

"and I think we should go
and see President Vest,

because I've thought these
things for a long time."

I had seen enough of the kind
of things that go on

that I really wanted
to support her.

We suddenly realized, "Gee,
if you get it and I get it,

there might be other people who
also have figured this out."

So then she and I,
we went around and talked

to each of the tenured women
in the School of Science.

I didn't know her.

She came to my office in the
spring of '94,

and wanted to chat about
what it was

to be a female in the
chemistry department.

It became evident that there
were very, very few women

in the faculty at M.I.T.

15 women in the six departments
of science

and 197 men.

They were such
high-profile women.

Half of them were in the
National Academy of Science.

Most of us didn't really...
We knew of each other,

but we didn't really know
each other.

And we made sure this meeting
was in a remote location,

so nobody could see us.

I have this feeling it was
a very small room,

and half of us
were sitting on the floor.

I wanted to know
if this was something

that was just
a biology department problem,

or whether this was
a bigger problem.

At the beginning, nobody really
wanted to jump right in

and go there, because you don't
want to be perceived as,

you know, weaker than,

but it all just came out in
little trickles,

and, suddenly, you know,
everybody was just

letting it all hang out.

There were comments from my male
colleagues like,

"Well, she really isn't as smart
as she's given credit for."

No woman had ever taken family
leave and gotten tenure.

Women were afraid to take it

because of the stigma
attached to it.

A guy said that we
are a bunch of hysterical women.


At that time, the problem
was, women were not listened to,

and this was going to be
the place

where every woman's opinion

I just remember us all
marching as a,

as a pack to the dean's office

And we felt intimidated,
as if somehow, you know,

we didn't belong there.

We asked if we could have
a committee

that could document the problem.

What we wanted to do was,
we wanted to see the data.

It was very scary, I mean,
for me, it was...

The future of my life in science

was on the balance there.

And the dean came in,
and he said,

"You can have the committee,

"but I don't think
it can fix this problem,

"because I don't know
how to fix it.

"I think the problem
is the nature

of a very male-dominated

I went to Jane's house
in Mandan, North Dakota.

It was her wedding.

And so she'd, I hadn't...
She'd been graduated

for a couple of years
or whatever.

And I was in the house, and her
brother was standing there,

and I was talking to her

and I introduced myself,
I say, "I'm Adam..."

And I said, "I went to
Antarctica with them."

And he just stiffened.

He went...

And just stiffened like a board,

And instantly, I thought, "God,
something is..."

And he goes, "You were in
Antarctica with her?"

And I was, like, "Yeah."

He said, "So you were there when
all that took place."

And I was, like,
"What, what took place?

Like, what do you mean?"

He said, "When Marchant treated
her like

and tried to just ruin her,
you were there."

So, for the next few minutes,
I had this realization.

At Jane's wedding in Mandan,
North Dakota,

after talking to her brother,

I was kind of standing there by
myself with, like,

a drink in my hand, going,
like, "Holy,

that must have been
really bad for Jane."

My name is Adam Lewis.

And I met Jane

when I became a graduate

So we went to Antarctica

And I was just in my office one
day, just working,

and an email pops up.

Jane says, "Hey, I've decided
it's time to, to come out"

"and file this report about

how Dave's treatment of women
has been."

And you know, she's, like,
"I know he's done it

to other women, and I just think
it, it needs to be dealt with."

She said, "You might need to
write down

what your experience is,
what you remember."

So I don't have a choice.

My only choice is to just
sit down and tell the truth.

That's my only choice.

I view Jane as a colleague
and a friend.

And so why wouldn't
I support her?

It feels like a really special
moment in time.

We're making inroads,

but it's just too darn slow.

So, when I was a freshman
in college,

my best friend,
who was also an engineer.

And we were sort of, like,
together through the experience,

which I think was really

for, for both of our retention
in the profession.

We looked around, and we noticed

that the classroom
was about half women.

And, you know,
I remember very clearly that

we had a conversation about,
"What is all the fuss about?"

Like, "There's plenty of women
in this classroom.

Maybe it's just a matter
of time."

And this is something I still

"Oh, it's just a matter of

And we looked around again
senior year,

and there was, out of
100 students, seven of us left.

And we sort of realized, like,

"Oh, this is the leaky

"This is disproportionate

In STEM, we have spent a lot
of resources and time

to get young girls
focused on STEM.

So we know that we've
been filling the pipeline.

The problem is that sexual

actually creates many leaks
in that pipeline.

So we're doing a lot of work,

but some of that work
is actually being undone.

Why do you move away from
a profession

and choose a different one,
you know?

That's sort of a collection of
personal choices,

but part of it is the culture.

There's a whole body of
social science

that has emerged where this is
actually no longer a mystery.

I assumed that the study that we
ultimately did

or something similar
would already have been done.

I was just interested to see,

what is the
experimental evidence

of whether or not there's
gender bias

amongst the scientific

And I was surprised to see that

that study had not yet been

So that's really what we
immediately dug in to pursue.

The methodology of the study
is really simple.

We describe a student
who's applying

to be a lab manager,
in this case.

But the qualifications, the
thing that participants read...

you know, their application...
Is identical.

Except half of our participants
are told

that the student is a woman,

and half are told that
the student is a man, John.

So any differences at all in
our conditions

or how the participants react
to these two students

is attributable solely to the
student's gender.

We worked hard to recruit
a representative sample

of STEM faculty
from around the country,

and we sent half of them
the application from Jennifer

and half the application
from John.

We told them that this was
a student

who had actually applied to be a
lab manager

somewhere in the country over
the course of the last year,

and that,
for this new mentoring program,

we needed their candid
assessments of the student.

I remember the day I was sitting
at my computer

doing the first pass of data
analysis for this,

and I thought I had something

because I just didn't expect

to see the same picture over and
over again.

The female student

is rated as inferior
to the male student

on every dimension that
we assessed.

She's rated as less competent.

She's less likely to be hired
for a lab manager job,

less likely to be mentored by
a faculty member,

and given a lower starting

than the identical male student.

The only difference between
them is their gender.

And so we're really quantifying
gender bias.

Not every woman contends with
this identically.

Women of color are targeted

in ways that are more complex,
more insidious,

and just more common.

It's not always
who you might think

is going to be demonstrating
these biases.

Bias comes from normal

cognitive processing mechanisms.

And what that means is that
really well-intentioned folks

tend to display these sorts
of very pervasive biases.

It's not sort of an evil cartoon
of someone

who's delighting in thwarting

the progress of, of smart
women... it's all of us.

Consciously, I could say I have

zero bias.

To me, men and women who perform
the same are equal.

But I think we're in those very
early moments in the science

where we're able to actually get

of what's inside our mind

of which we don't know.

So what we're going
to do today is,

you are participants in
a couple of little exercises.

I hope you find this as

intriguing as I did when
I first took this test.

This test is called the I.A.T.,

or the Implicit
Association Test.

The I.A.T. has a very simple

idea that underlies it.

The idea is that if two things
have something in common,

we'll be more easily able
to put them together.

And sometimes this just happens
in our experience.

Salt and pepper go together.

They're opposites in one sense,
but they go together,

because we combine them.

The word "king" and "queen"
go together.

This is not a hard idea
to imagine.

And so we use this idea to argue
that if two things

have come to be associated over
and over again

in our experience,
whether we know it or not,

we will be faster to put them

Nobody has any trouble
understanding why this might be.

It's a no-brainer, as a
neuroscientist might say, okay.

So imagine that in the test,

you're asked to do something
very simple.

A word is going to pop up
in the middle of the screen.

You're going to see names
of men and women.

You're also gonna
see words that are

in two categories,
family and career,

and the career part that I've

think scientific career.

Words for career are words
like "scientist," "laboratory,"


Words for home
are going to be words like

"marriage," "kitchen,"

All you have to do is put the
two together, right?

So, if the name is a male name
or the word is a career word,

you will say, "Left."

And if it's a female name
or a home word,

you will say, "Right."

Okay, you got it?

Keep that in your mind.

Oh, and you have to go
super-fast to do this.

By super-fast, I mean, like,

700 milliseconds,

meaning faster than a second
to make each response.

Okay, so, simple, ready...


Left, left, right, right, left,

left, left, right, right,

right, right, right,

left, left, right...

Left, left, left, right, right.


The trouble arises...

this is what makes it a test...
That we now flip these.

And now we'll do the other

If it's a female name or
a career word, like "scientist"

or that, you'll say, "Left."

If it's a male name
or a house word,

you will say, "Right," okay?

Everybody ready to go? Go.

Left, left, right, left...

Right, left, right...


So, as a colleague of ours said,

you don't need a computer
to measure this bias.

A sundial will do.

And that's because

the effect is palpable.

Now, if you were one of the
first people in the world

to ever take this test
and you made the test,

your first reaction when you
take this test should be,

"Something's screwed up
with the test."

At least that was my view.

I thought I could do this.

So I take the test, and it turns
out I can't do it.

When I say, "I can't do it,"
I mean that I can,

but with a lot more time

and more errors in what
I'm doing.

And the feeling you get as you
take this test

is one of utter despair.

I ought to be able to associate
female and male

equally with science.

I am, after all,
a woman in science.

This should not be so hard
for me to do.

To discover that I cannot do

I think, is profound.

Recently somebody had showed me
an email they'd received

from a very distinguished

who happens to be a colleague
of mine...

so I was particularly upset
by it... saying that

he had looked very carefully
and had seen no bias

or prejudice against women
during his entire career,

and therefore he was confident

that such a thing did not exist.

And I guess, you know,
at this point in time, 2019...

this email was a few months

I just was shocked by this.

These are great scientists.

How can they not know this?

How can they not believe this?

If they know it,
don't they believe it?

This worries me a lot.

So when I hear stories
like the one you tell,

that your male colleague
believes that

he's never seen it, I have
two kinds of responses to it.

One, I understand that he may be

truly unaware
and genuinely believing

that he's looking for it
and just not seeing it.

It's in the nature of this beast
that we're trying to identify.

It's invisible.

But then I also feel

that he has no business
saying what he did,

because today, the evidence

is so much more clear
that he need not rely on his own

personal experience.

He just needs to look at
the data.

That's what he'd want us to do
for his science.

He'd say, "Mahzarin,
whatever you may think"

"about turbulence or whatever,
that doesn't matter.

"That's your...
intuitive experience

"of the physical world.

But you need to know
the research."

And I would say the same to him,

because the time
has passed now for saying,

"I don't see it anywhere."

And that's why we should be
concerned that anybody

who says it's not happening,
or not happening anymore,

is just made

to retract those words,
'cause they can say,

"I, I'm not going to change
my behavior,

I don't care about it,"
all of that.

That's their...

But they cannot say that
the evidence doesn't exist.

My field, broadly speaking,

is discovering that human beings
may not be the people

they think they are.

That they are far more fallible
than they may have thought.

Who's competent?

Who has potential?

Who's brilliant?

We find very clear evidence

that men are preferred to women
for the same accomplishments.

Implicit bias is something that
we all carry in our heads.

How could we not?

We are creatures
of our environment.

We are creatures who learn.

When I see a certain
set of patterns,

that impinges on me in some way,
and it leaves a trace.

Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Okay, now let's let that cook
there for a while

and make some more hydrogen...

And that trace is now
a part of me.

This is where the power
of technology

actually can be used
to advantage to, in a sense,

program our minds to be what
we want them to have in them.

Before junior high, I would've
been really hard-pressed

to name a woman scientist.

I would have been extremely
hard-pressed to name

a woman scientist of color.

'Cause I didn't see any.

And science is a way
to view the world.

It's also everywhere.

You can find it anywhere.

Yes, even in "Game of Thrones."

Beyond the bench, I'm also
a science communicator.

Video games can be complicated,
but they're not rocket science.

I'll be on podcasts,
in different videos,

and sometimes I get to be
on television.

Roll cameras A, B, and C.

Tape one, take one.

Representation always matters.

You know,
there's the whole saying of,

"If you see it, you can be it,"

It's getting better, but there
used to be a time, right,

when you would say, "Okay,

what does a scientist
look like?"

And it was, like, you know,
white guy with crazy hair,

you know, whatever.

And now it's, like, "No, it's a
Black woman with crazy hair."

You can only report your sample,
then, in a significant...

By its very nature,

science itself should always be

Who is asking the questions,
and how they're asking them,

and who gets supported

does determine the field.

The diversity of people
in science

can really set the outcomes.

So that's actually emboldened me

to just be more authentically

- I did it!
- Yes!

It took me a while, 'cause Ralph
kept distracting me,

and then Joseph did, and so I'm
going to blame them and not me.


So, yeah, this is what I have
right now.

I have it all prepped
and ready...

I might as well have

more fun, wear silly clothing,
and talk about zombie chemistry

and wear my hair the way I want.

Not trying to chase
this mythology

of what a scientist is.

- Hello!
- Jane!

Hey, Sylvie.


Good to see you.

Oh, it's been a long time.

What a great house, oh, my gosh.

Oh, yeah, well,
it's going to be great someday.

Do you remember walking back
that time, when you and I

and Brett were out there,
walking back into the wind?


My nose froze, right?

Yeah, and I got frostbite
on my tuchus. Yeah.

Going to the bathroom.

That's the worst.
Oh, God.

I'd still be going there.

I would still be
a college professor,

and I'd still be going there
if I didn't have to go

to the bathroom.

In Antarctica.


You know, when I was writing my

Title IX complaint,
it was incredibly cathartic.

I just, like, wrote it,

and then just started bawling.

When you're writing them
all out, one after another...

You know.

It's, like, yeah, that happened,

and then that happened,
and then that happened.

And you start thinking, like,
"How did this even..."

And it's, like,
"Well, they were different days,

and, you know, I had thought it
would get better."

Yeah. And you know, you
have, like, this whole mindset of,

like, hoping for the best,
even though you really think

that it's probably not
going to go well. Mm-hmm.

I never knew how much
it bothered you.

I didn't know.

You didn't show it to me,
so I didn't know.

I mean, I knew he was being
a complete dick to you,

but I didn't know that it was
getting to you.


It was hard to navigate.

Like, I knew, I mean, it's...

Obviously, it was an issue.

But it just was, like,
"Okay, well, Jane's

kind of dealing with it,"
and whatever.

I do sort of have a tough cookie
sort of bravado about me.

I mean, I should have
seen it more.

I feel a major regret,
'cause I didn't help.

When I wrote that out,
I was, like,

the pattern is so clear!"

Some of the things
that you tell me

and that I've heard
from other women,

I just... it's unfathomable.

I didn't know.

And most of the men that I know,

all these guys that I went

to Antarctica with and all my

professor friends,
whatever... Mm-hmm.

We... they would not do that,
right? Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

So, when you hear these stories,

you're just, like, "What?"


I'll tell you a story.

I think I've told you
this before.

So, I was in Europe

and I was at this

glacial conference thing,
this EU-run thing. Yeah.

With a whole bunch of students,

and there was this old
glaciologist there.

He's, like, about 60 years old.

Anyway, we were all out

at the... in Italy,
and we're all out at the bar.

He takes his hotel room key,

and he starts just going
down the line.

And you couldn't really hear
what he was saying,

but he would go up to
a female student and be, like...

And then he would
put the key on the table,

and they would all be, like,
"Yeah, yeah."

And they'd just flick the key
right back to him. Mm-hmm.

A couple of minutes later,

he would sit down at the next
table with a, with a girl,

and he'd be, like, "Yeah,
so how are you doing?"

Key goes out on the table,

and every time, the girl
just was, like...


Slaps it right back at him.

But it didn't deter him at all,

and he just went
to the next one, right?


And he's obviously,
like, lecherous

and all that kind of stuff.

But I always, I was always
impressed with those women,

that they didn't seem
to take any...

They didn't take it in
on themselves.

They were just, like,

"Yeah, no, no, thanks."

Right, but it's also, like,

bad to, like, sort of
be proud of them for,

like, just laughing it off
and not making a big scene

about it, because, really,

someone should do that. Do
you think they should have?

But what we have
is a selection bias of,

all of the people
who make a big scene like that

are kicked out of science.

And so it's only the people who,

...and push the card away
that actually are able to,

like, be the women who stay.

I see, yeah.

Imagine getting hit on
at a conference, and then,

like, someone else says,
"Hey, do you want to talk about

your poster over a beer
across the street?"

You think nothing of it, right?

You're, like, "I'll try to
ignore that being hit on"

"earlier in the day.

"I'll go across the street,
have a beer with this, you know,

big-name guy."

And then you go across
the street,

and you have a beer
with this guy,

and then he hits on you, too.

And then you walk back
to your room with someone who,

you know, was your lab mate,
and they say,

"What did you think he wanted?

"Do you think he was interested

in talking about science
with you?"

How does that make you feel?

You know?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then you actually
have someone who, you know,

like, is, behaves completely

values your opinion.

And then you have
some success in life,

and then that same lab mate
is, like,

"Oh, I know why she got that.

"She had a beer with the guy,
and then she probably

slept with him later on
that night."

And then, even though
nothing happened,

you've been hit on twice,
you didn't do anything wrong,

and now you have this reputation
for having some success

because you were seen
having a beer with someone.

That's the kind of crap that,
like, that second group

of people does.

It's sort of, like, what is it?

A ton of feathers
is still a ton.

Looking back on it, these
really, really capable women

are walking into a headwind
that I didn't have.

And sometimes they come up
against a real brick wall

in a guy like David Marchant.

You know, I saw that Dave
was taking some special joy

in tormenting her,

calling her "Crazy Jane"
all the time.

"Hey, Crazy Jane, Crazy Jane."

And I think one of the reasons
that he got really into it

is that she really was good
at not showing

that it was bothering her.

So then he, he turned the dial

Didn't seem like
it bothered her.

He turned the dial up.

Didn't seem like
it bothered her.

And so, I'll be honest,
I honestly did not...

I mean, I knew he was being
a dick.

I knew it, but it just didn't
seem to bother her.

She seemed to just laugh it off.

With the Dave and Jane thing,
it comes back to me.

Many, many other times
in my life,

I have jumped to the defense
of the weaker person.

But with Jane,

I didn't see it,
and it's just pure stupidity.

It was pure...

I just didn't open my eyes
to what was going on.

I have reported on
sexual harassment

in the sciences since 2015.

The frustration with inaction
is, is why

we saw this wave of women
coming forward

to publicize their stories.

I don't think that most people's
first option is to,

you know, go to a reporter
and talk about the problems

they dealt with
as a graduate student, you know?

I think that very much happened
as a result of

a lot of other failures
in the, along the way.

Many of the women that I've
spoken to in the stories

that we've reported here

about sexual harassment
have left the field.

And they have said very clearly
that this is why

they've left the field.

That it was either
the experience itself,

or it was the process of trying
to do anything about it

that eventually made them throw
their hands up and be, like,

"Screw it.

"This is not...

I don't have to deal with this."

Liftoff of America's
first space shuttle.

And the shuttle has cleared
the tower.

I was seven when the space
shuttle first went up.

I decided right then and there

that I wanted to be
an astronaut.

I don't think I realized
how obsessive I was about it.

It turns out most people
didn't spend their nights

listening to the same recordings
of all the Apollo missions,

you know, time after time.

2,500 feet.


I just also loved science
in college.

I wanted to take
all the sciences, which I did,

like, took a class in
every science along the way.

I enjoyed a lot of
the other sciences,

but geology was my passion.

One of the unspoken rules
was that you needed to have

either a PhD or be coming out of

the military as a pilot.

And so that's what put me on the
track of, "Must get my PhD."

Two, one, nose gear is ten feet.

When I got the call back
from B.U.,

they said they would love
to have me.

I was admitted,
and I could work in the program

that I had applied to, but they
also had this new professor

who had just come in

and was going to be doing
Antarctic work.

So I was the first grad student
of Dave Marchant.

So I arrived in September.

In my second week,

Dave told me that he did not
want a woman

as a graduate student.

I said, "I don't have
a gender-neutral name,

so it was clear that I was
a woman when I was applying."

I can't remember exactly
what he said,

but it was more or less
that the department

had foisted me upon him.

My experience when I was in

was fairly atrocious,

but I really wasn't
mentally prepared

for what would happen when I
got down into Antarctica.

It was bullying from day one.

He was using epithets
all the time,

"whore," "bitch."

And then I remember the first
time he called me.

Later on, he would tell me that
he did not believe that women

should be on the ice
in Antarctica,

and we're altering the science
on the ice for worse.

In order to do scientific work
down in Antarctica,

you need to apply for funding

through the National Science
Foundation Polar Programs.

So there aren't alternate
sources for funding

if you want to do work there.

And part of how Dave
derived his authority

was because he helped to decide
who got the funding.

It was the middle of the summer
in Antarctica,

and we walked outside
of the camp

because he indicated
that he had something

that he wanted to tell me.

He told me that he had decided
that I would have no future

in, in any polar studies,

and that they would make sure
that I got no funding.

My whole world
was disintegrating,

and then he, like, grinned at
me, and walked off.

And when we got back, I went to
the chair of the department

at the time, and explained
all the circumstances.

And it was a woman.

She was sitting behind a desk
in a fairly darkened room,

and it was a big wooden desk.

She said, "You can go through
this, but Dr. Marchant"

"has a sterling reputation,

"brings a lot of money
into this department,

"and wouldn't it just be easier
if you just finished

a master's degree and left?"

And I was floored.

The department judged that
running one woman out of science

was much less of a hassle
than running a man out.

Leaving without a PhD meant not
applying to be an astronaut.

And it was the end of the dream
that I had had.

Who knows if I'd ever

actually have become
an astronaut?

But, if it was going to end,

I would have wanted it to end
on my terms.

For me, it was a conflict
that was never to be resolved,

even though I loved the science

that was happening.

So I just couldn't do it
any longer.

I was about 50, and I thought,

"There are two choices here,

I could retire, but I'm not rich
enough to retire,

and never work again.

There's no other thing I'd
rather do outside of science.

I just loved it.

Somehow, I... this is worth
fighting for.

I'm going to fight enough
that I can go in the lab

and do an experiment,

and somebody's not going to come
and make it impossible for me

to do it, or ruin it after I
have done it,

or take all the credit for it
once it's done,

or make sure that
something bad...

I'm going to fight for that
because I just have to do this.

I want to be a scientist.

If you believe that passion
for science, ability in science

is evenly distributed
among the sexes,

if you don't have women,

you've lost half
the best people.

Can we really afford to lose
those top scientists?

Often, people talk about
the cost to women.

For now, I want to put that
aside and just talk about

the cost to the world
of science.

I mean, how much are we costing

How many great discoveries
have just been lost

to us because we didn't have the
eyes to see?

A study of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology

was launched
by female faculty members

fed up with unequal treatment.

At M.I.T., female professors
have been learning lessons

the hard way.

When the women compared notes,

they found they all had
similar problems.

That triggered
a five-year study.

What they found were
salary inequities,

lack of advancement...

As the evidence
started coming in,

it was really clear that
there were major discrepancies.

On the average,
the laboratory space for women

was significantly less than
the laboratory space for men,

and it was clear that the women

were paid a lower salary
than the men.

M.I.T. was losing
female faculty hires

because of the childcare issue.

There was no childcare anywhere
in the central campus.

I think it took all of that to
make it comprehensible story.

It came to be known
as the M.I.T. Report.

It was just a summary of what
we'd done with some data in it.

I said, "We've got to ask
Chuck Vest if he'd like to"

"put a comment to go
with the report.

We don't want anyone to think
that we blindsided them."

It was a long time
between the full report

and then the decision.

I would think it's almost

Definitely weeks.

It was very complicated
for the university.

You have to, I think,
put this whole thing

in the context of a university

that really prided itself
on being a meritocracy.

You thought no president
of any university

would ever understand,

much less acknowledge publicly.

He struggled with exactly
the criticism that I think

everyone knew we would get.

But then something really
amazing happened.

He endorsed the report.

He wrote this comment,
which really is, I think,

the reason the M.I.T. Report
became so well-known.

"I have always believed

"that contemporary gender

"within universities is part
reality and part perception,

"but I now understand
that reality is by far

the greater part
of the balance."

He came out and said,
"There has been discrimination,

"and there has been bias,

and we're going to go forward
and rectify this."

What the report made us do
is own the problem.

Because it was based on data,

you can't refute it.

It was a ripple that, you could
feel that resonance,

and that's because it was real.

We all were amazed
at the response.

After the M.I.T. Report,
I was invited to give

so many talks,
and I went around the country,

and I met so many women

who had put so much time
into this problem.

Women everywhere could
go to their department heads,

to their provosts,

and say,
"Why are we not doing this?"

And they did.

The last 20 years for me
have been

sort of a slow continuous

I was a graduate student
at M.I.T. in the '90s.

I was one of very few women.

And then when I came back to be
on the faculty of 2005,

every step of the way,

someone has been quietly
watching my salary,

making sure that it was equal.

So I have benefited from
the work that they did.

And I try to do, you know,
that for the next generation.

It was a turning point for me
as a university administrator.

I remember going to a meeting
of provosts not long after that

and getting browbeat by a number
of provosts...

I'm not going to say who...

Who said,
"It's not in my institution."

There still is bias.

People still have implicit bias
and explicit bias.

You know, these are
tough societal problems,

and you can't lose the energy,

because you won't solve
the problem unless you build in,

you know,
systematic structural change

that can keep working
over a long timeframe.

Nancy, hi!

How are you, Nancy?

So good to see you.
How are you?

I can't remember the last time
I saw you.

How are you, how are you?
Good to see you.

You're wearing
a different costume!

Oh, so good to see you.
Nancy, this is such a crazy thing.

It took that group
working together

to take this problem on.

It really couldn't have
been done otherwise.

Sylvia, myself, Penny,

Nancy, Vicki.

We were much younger.

Everyone was.

20 years.

You know, this kind of thing
takes somebody who's passionate,

who's willing to give
their life to it,

and who has tremendous courage.

The first toast

is to Nancy, and the second
toast is to all of us.

If you go back and read
the things that we wrote,

they're brilliant!

So we are in Quebec City

for the Canadian Chemical
Society meeting.

I am speaking at the meeting.

I always get really, really

A skosh of it might be
impostor syndrome,

which a lot of people get.

But I also think part of it

is the expectations sometimes
for speakers

from historically marginalized
groups are higher.

"The Washington Post,"
"Chemistry World,"

and "Scientific American"

have all featured her
pop-culture chemistry writing.

And if you haven't yet checked
out her blogs

and podcasts, they make really
excellent content for lectures.

Please join me in welcoming Dr.
Raychelle Burks to the stage.

So I want to kick off my talk

by first talking about

So how many folks are familiar
with code-switching?

And so it's a linguistic term.

Oftentimes in linguistics, it's
considered between languages.

Definitely when you're learning
a new language, right?

But in the last ten to 15 years,
this has really been expanded,

and this is actually

a great visual of what
code-switching is.

So look at how he's doing
this handshake...

And then with Durant, right?

There's a familiarity there.

You code-switch, right?

If you're at work,

talking to your colleagues,
talking to the dean, or at home,

you switch your styles.

You may also switch
your language.

Even though we all do it,

the historically marginalized
do it sometimes

for a different reason, right?

We do it because we're told
in implicit and explicit ways

that basically everything
you are,

from the top of your head
to the bottom of your toes,

needs to change.

Your hair, your "ethnic dress,"

your mannerisms, they got to go,

And we often do it

by calling it "professional"

or "professional standards,"

And what we need to realize
is that our so-called

professional standards
or professionalism,

who got to decide that?

Who got to make those rules,

'Cause I don't recall
making a rule that my hair

needed to be straight.

And I have absolutely been told,
you know,

"Before you go to that talk,

are you going to make your hair
look more professional?"

K through 12, college,

graduate school,

and now we hear this
kind of thing.

"Science is apolitical," right?

"It's objective."

"It's free from bias where only
the best rise to the top."

And I did believe that, okay?

And maybe there are some of you
sitting in the audience

that are, like,
"No, that's absolutely true.

And I refuse to hear

And it's not true, because
science is a human endeavor,

and that means that it contains
and is subject to

all of our brilliance
and all of our bias.

And we tend to focus on the
brilliance part, but remember,

there's an "and bias."

This is advice that I've gotten,
and I'm passing it on.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of you,
take care of others.

You cannot do everything
on your own.

You need enough of your allies,
well positioned,

to make something happen.

It's about doing.

The correction requires action.

We can do better,
we can get better,

and we will be better together.

Thank you.


There you go.

So we're going to take a sample,
take it back to the lab,

and crush it, and then we do all
kinds of things to it.

You'll take that tiny little
powder that you end up with,

and you'll pack that into a
little target

that you send to the accelerator
mass spectrometer,

and the whole sample that you
end up with

is, like, the head of a pin.

Sometimes we use

kilograms of samples,

and we'll end up with just this
little tiny thing

that will disappear if you
sneeze, so we don't do that.

One of my goals in mentoring is

to be someone that I needed
when I was younger.

All right, so do we measure
or should we keep going?

Maybe a little bit more.

Jane's a great adviser.

She really is somebody who I can
admire and look up to

and take as a role model
in many different ways.

Oh, that's the money
right there.

Ah, perfect.

If you hit it
a couple of more times.

I think about what would have
led the faculty committee

to have come to that decision
to let him back on.

They said that he would be able
to resume his normal activities

after a certain period of time.

So I was in sort of disbelief.

But the president, fortunately,
thought something different.

I'm Bob Brown.

I'm president of Boston

and before that, was provost
at M.I.T.

Boston University has fired
a professor

accused of sexual harassment.

In a letter to the faculty

B.U. president Robert Brown

that after a 13-month

the board of trustees voted to

Dr. David Marchant's employment.

When I heard the news,

I was a little bit conflicted,
because on the one hand,

it was great that he was fired

and wouldn't be able to do

to other female trainees.

But on the other hand,
in so many cases,

there's not that justice
that happens.

A lot of people,
especially male scientists,

you know, when they heard about
my story,

I received a diversity
of responses.

Some people avoided eye contact.

Some people wanted to have
nothing to do with me.

Some people wanted to talk about
it and ask what they could do,

which I think
is a great response.

One thing that's been really
impressive has been

how much people have wanted
to make change as a result.

The Science and Technology
Committee opened an inquiry.

They were shocked that someone
who'd been harassing women

for decades had received
millions of dollars

in National Science Foundation

The Committee on Science, Space,
and Technology

will come to order.

And I now recognize Dr. Clancy
for five minutes

to present her testimony.

We scientists do this work
because we want to give

the best of ourselves to the
advancement of science.

Women keep trying to give us
their best,

and we blow ash in their faces
and push them down mountains.

The way we've tried to fix this
problem isn't working.

We have decades of evidence
to prove it.

Let's move away from a culture
of compliance

and towards a culture of change.

Despite all the progress,
and it's tremendous progress,

women still grapple
with these problems.

People had never really looked
at the data

in the way that we looked at it
as a committee.

So I kept memos,
just copies of memos.

And what's astonishing to me
when I look at all of this

is the amount of time
and the amount of work

that went into doing this,

asking people to come
to meetings

and the amount of effort it took
to try to see...

And I think about, you know...

it makes me realize, you know,
that at the time,

I was spending 20 hours a week
or something on this

and then doing my job
the rest of the time.

It makes me sad.

It really does.

You know, you sort of wonder
in your life,

would you have done it

And, gosh, I don't know.

I couldn't have lived without

but I wouldn't live through this
again, I'll tell you.

So I don't know what the answer
should have been,

would have been.

I still don't know.

It can still... Even now, just,
just thinking about it,

you know, that it was this way.

Such a waste of time and energy,

when all you wanted to do
was be a scientist.

What on Earth?

Look at the talent
of these women.

This is what you lose when you
do not solve this problem.

And that's really what it's

It's about the science.

As misinformation and so-called
fake news continues

to be rapidly distributed on the

our reality has become
increasingly shaped

by false information.

Many people don't know the
difference between

something real and something
created to deceive them.

I spent about 15 years in
advertising and marketing,

and while I was there,
Google arrived on the scene.

I understood the transformative
effect that this search engine

was having in helping us curate

through all kinds
of information.

But I was surprised,
having just left advertising,

that everybody was thinking
about Google

as this new public trusted

because I thought of it
as an advertising platform.

Most people who use search
engines believe

that search engine results
are fair and unbiased.

The public, and especially kids
and young people,

use search engines to tell them
the facts about the world.

One weekend, my nieces were
coming over to hang out,

and I was thinking, "Oh, let me
pull my laptop out"

"and see if I can find some cool

for us to do this weekend."

I just thought to type in "Black

and the whole first page

of search results was almost
exclusively pornography

or hyper-sexualized content.

In 2012, I started to see
some of the results changing.

Google had started to suppress
the pornography

around Black girls.

Unfortunately, still today,
we see pornography

and a kind of hyper-sexualized
content as the primary way

in which Latina and Asian girls
are represented.

"What makes Asian girls so
attractive," "Asian fetish,"

"hot ladies from Asians," "see
who we rank number one in 2020,"

"tender Asian girls,"
"meet world beauties."

This is the study that was done
by the Markup

that replicated my study
from ten years ago.

They found that Black girls,
Latina girls, and Asian girls,

those phrases were... look...

so profoundly linked with kind
of adult content.

Zero for white girls,
zero for white boys.

There are so many racial

and gender stereotypes
that show up in search results.

What about actual girls
and children

who go and look for themselves
in these spaces?

It's very disheartening.

When women become sex objects in
a space like this,

it's really profound, because
the public generally relates

to search engines
as kind of fact checkers.

Before we were so heavily
reliant upon a database,

we used something
like a card catalogue.

We didn't rank content,
it was alphabetical.

It also might be by subject.

It's a summary of the
organization system

we call the
Dewey Decimal System.

Now when we're in a subject,
we know there is

a lot in relationship
to that one item

that we might be looking for.

We might go look for a book in
the stacks, for example,

and find that there's hundreds
of books around that one

that tell us something about
that book,

and we might serendipitously
find all kinds of other bits

of information that are amazing.

But we can see a little a bit
more about the logics of that.

We don't understand the logics
of how certain things

make it to the first page
in a search.

Google has a very complicated

and nuanced algorithm
for search.

Over 200 different factors
go into

how they decide what we see.

Of course, they're indexing
about half

of all of the information
that is on the web,

and even that is trillions
of pages.

Billions of times a day,

Google software locates all the
potentially relevant results

on the web, removes all the
spam, and ranks them

based on hundreds of factors,
like keywords, links, location,

and freshness...
All in, oh, 0.81 seconds.

The whole premise of a search
engine is to categorize

and classify information.

A lot of the content that comes
back to us on the internet,

it's in a cultural context
of ranking.

We know very early what it means
to be number one,

so ranking logic signals to us

that the classification is

from one being the best

to whatever is on page 48
of search,

which nobody ever looks at.

Part of what it's doing is
picking up signals

from things that we've clicked
on in the past,

that a lot of other people have
clicked on,

things that are popular.

So an algorithm is, in essence,
a decision tree.

If these conditions are present,

then this decision
should be made.

And the decision tree gets

so that it becomes like
a sorting mechanism.

Google's very reliable for
certain types of information.

If you're using it in this kind
of phone book fashion,

it's fairly reliable.

But when you start asking a
search engine

more complex questions, or you
start looking for knowledge,

the evidence isn't there that
it's capable of doing that.

It's this combination of

it's a combination of
advertising and capital,

and also what people click on

that really drives
what we find on the web.

This is where we start falling
into trickier situations,

because those who have the most
money are really able

to optimize their content
better than anyone else.

There have been great studies
about the disparate impact

of what a profile online
says about who you are.

I was the first

African American women to get

a PhD in computer science at

So, I visit Harvard.

I'm being interviewed there
by a reporter,

and he wants to see a particular
paper that I had done before.

So, I go over to my computer,

I type in my name into Google's
search bar,

and upward pops this ad implying
I had an arrest record.

He says,
"Ah, forget that article.

Tell me about the time
you were arrested."

I said, "Well, I have never
been arrested."

And he says, "Then why does
your computer say

you've been arrested?"

So I click on the ad,
I go to the company to show him

not only did I not have an
arrest record,

but nobody with
a "Latanya Sweeney" name

had an arrest record.

And he says, "Yeah, but why did
it say that?"

If you type in the name

in the Google image search,

you can see a lot Black faces
staring back.

Whereas if I type "Tanya,"

I see a lot of white faces
staring back.

So we get the idea that there
are some first names

given more often to Black babies
than white babies.

So, I then took a month

and I researched almost 150,000
ad deliveries

around the country, and I found
that if your name was given

more often to white babies
than Black babies,

the ad would be neutral.

And if your first name
was given more often

to Black babies
than white babies,

you were 80% likely to get an ad

implying you had
an arrest record,

even if no one with your name

had any arrest record
in their database.

One specific way
that algorithms discriminate

is that they just are too crude.

The idea of if x, then y,

if you have this type of name,

it means you're automatically
associated with criminality.

That blunt, crude kind of

that is the staple logic
of how algorithms work.

The types of bias that we find
on the internet are often blunt.

We are being profiled into
similar groups of people

who do the kinds of things
that we might be doing,

and we're clustered and sold
as a cluster to advertisers.

And so there's certainly a
commercial bias.

But we also have the bias
of the people

who design the technologies.

To think that technologies will
be neutral or never have bias

is really an improper framing.

Of course there will always be
a point of view

in our technologies.

The question is, is the point of
view in service of oppression?

Is it sexist?
Is it racist?

Here I was, a passionate
believer in the future

of equitable technology,
and if the people,

when they were hiring me
at Harvard, had typed my name

into the Google search bar
and paid attention to this ad,

it put me at a disadvantage.

And not just me, but a whole
group of Black people

would be placed
at a disadvantage.

How could these biases of
society be invading

the technology that I really had
grown to love?

And now civil rights
was up for grabs

by what technology design
allowed or didn't allow.

Google's ad delivery system
is really quite amazing.

You click on a web page, and
that web page has a slot

that an ad is going to be

And in that fraction of a

while the page is being

Google runs a fast digital

And in that digital auction,

they decide which of competing
ads are going to be the ad

they're going to place
right there.

At first, the Google algorithm

will choose one of them

but if somebody clicks on one,
then that one becomes

weighted more often
to be delivered.

So, one way the discrimination
in online ads could happen

would've been that society would
have been biased

on which ads they clicked
most often,

and that this would've represent
the bias of society itself.

Our technology and our data
sharing are so powerful

that they are kind of
like the new policy maker.

We don't have oversight over
these designs, but yet,

how the technology is designed
dictates the rules we live by.

And this meant that we were
moving from a democracy

to a new kind of technocracy.

I became the chief technology

at the Federal Trade Commission.

They're sort of the de facto
police department

of the internet.

One of the experiments that I
had done while I was at the FTC

showed that everyone's online
experience is not the same.

What we lose
with our hyper-reliance upon

search technologies
and social media is,

the criteria for surfacing
what's most important

can be deeply, highly

One of the hardest case studies
to write in my book

was about Dylann Roof.

He went online and he was trying
to make sense

of the trial
of George Zimmerman.

And the first thing that
I guess I can say,

I would say woke me up,

you know, would be
the Trayvon Martin case.

Trayvon Martin,
an unarmed Black teenager,

was shot down by a white
neighborhood watchman

who claimed self-defense.

Eventually I decided to,
you know, look his name up,

just type him into Google,

you know what I'm saying?

For some reason,
it made me type in the words

"Black on white crime."

We know from Dylann Roof's own
words that the first site

that he comes to is the Council
of Conservative Citizens.

The CCC is an organization

that the Southern Poverty Law
Center calls vehemently racist.

And that's,
that was it, ever since then.

Let's say he had been
my student.

I could've just immediately
said, "Did you know that

that phrase is kind of
a racist red herring?"

The FBI statistics show us that
the majority of white people

are actually killed
by other white people.

But instead, he goes to the
internet and he finds the CCC,

and he goes down a rabbit hole
of white supremacist websites.

Did you read a lot?
Did you read books,

or watch videos, or watch movies
or YouTube,

or anything like that

specifically about
that subject matter?

No, it was pretty much
just reading articles.

Reading articles?

And we know that shortly

he goes into a church,
murders nine African Americans,

and says his intent
is to start a race war.

This is not an atypical

When you don't get a
counterpoint to the query,

you don't get Black studies

or FBI statistics, or anything
that would reframe

the very question
that you're asking.

This is an extreme case
of acting upon

white power radicalization,
but this is not unlike

things that are happening right
now every day in search engines,

on Facebook, on Twitter, in Gab.

People are being targeted
and radicalized

in very dangerous ways.

This is what is at stake when
people are so susceptible

to disinformation, hate speech,
hate propaganda in our society.

Racism itself can't be solved by

The question is, to what extent
can we make sure technology

doesn't perpetuate it,

doesn't allow harms to be made
because of it?

We need a diverse and inclusive
community in the design stage,

in the marketing
and business stage,

in the regulatory and journal
stages, as well.

I am really interested
in solutions.

It's easy to talk about the

and it's painful, also, to talk
about the problems.

But that pain and that struggle
should lead us

to thinking about alternatives.

Those are the kind of things
that I like to talk to

other information professionals
and researchers

and librarians about.

As a person who has a name

that doesn't sound like
Jennifer, right?

Or Sarah, or something.

That paper made the difference
for me,

because I was just
this grad student,

and you were this esteemed
Harvard professor,

and you were having these
experiences, too.

When I think about the, like,
the, the foundations

of something like ethical A.I.,

I go back to you
in that early paper.

I think what I feel
most hopeful about

is that there's this new cottage
industry called ethical A.I.,

and I know that our work is
profoundly tied to that.

But on another level,
I feel like

these predictive technologies
are so much more ubiquitous

than they were ten years ago.

You know, what I find really
painful is that

as we move forward,
it's harder to track.

One thing that becomes clear is,

we could use a heck of a lot
more transparency.

As a computer scientist,
my vision

is, I want society to enjoy
the benefits

of all these new technologies
without these problems.

Technology doesn't have to be
made this way.

That's right, that's right.

I see so many more women and
girls of color

interested in these

and one of the things that I
also see is how we see things

because we ask different

based on our lived experiences.

Just the fact that the questions
are being raised

means that the space is less

means there's an opportunity for
your voice.

And, and the other thing

that's really important about
this work,

it means that it's a new kind of
way of thinking

about computer science.

It's in this conversation with
you that I see a future.

I'm hopeful because it's not
one isolated paper,

but in fact, it's a,
it's a movement

toward asking the right
questions, exposing

the right unforeseen

and pushing this forward
towards a solution.

Some questions cannot be
answered instantly.

Some issues we're dealing
with in society,

we need time
and we need discussion.

How could we look for new logics
and new metaphors

and new ways to get
a bigger picture?

Maybe we could see when we do
that query

that that's just nothing but

and we could even see

the sources of the
disinformation farms.

Maybe we could see
the financial backers.

There's a lot of ways
that we could reimagine

our information landscape.

So, I do feel like
there is some hope.

To order this program on DVD,
visit ShopPBS

or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

Episodes of "NOVA" are available
with Passport.

"NOVA" is also available
on Amazon Prime Video.