publications

Battling Unconscious Biases

Most of us know that we harbour implicit or unconscious biases, but are at a loss about how to address them. Many orchestras have long acknowledged these biases and have responded by having job candidates audition behind a screen to ensure anonymity, resulting in an increased number of women in these orchestras. Similarly, the Society for Music Theory has worked at removing the impact of these biases by engaging in double-blind review of articles for the Society’s journals; double-blind review has been successful: the acceptance rate of articles by women in Music Theory Spectrum and Music Theory Online is on par with men.

Most scholars, whether male or female, believe that they are not prejudiced against women, or members of the LGBTQ communities, or people with disabilities, or people of colour, but scientific studies show us clearly that unconscious biases shape all of our interactions. As bell hooks says, we are all capable of being both oppressed and oppressor (Hooks, 2000, 16). We unwittingly act on these biases in a number of ways, but I will focus here on letters of recommendation, on our citation habits, and on our invitations to conferences and academic panels. It is only by recognizing and actively countering these biases that we can dismantle systemic barriers and create true diversity in our institutions and in this Society. Here are some concrete suggestions for how to do that.

Letters of reference for male students, whether or not the letter-writer is male or female, are “4x more likely to mention publications” and emphasize research, praising achievement, while letters for women are 50% more likely to use adjectives that praise effort (Commission on the Status of Women, University of Arizona). When we write letters for women, we need to make a deliberate effort to highlight their achievements.

In academic publications in general, we cite more male authors than female, which has a negative impact on the careers of women. You can address this problem by checking your bibliography and resources when writing your next article or course syllabus, and deliberately seeking out work by women.

Finally: avoid the all-male panel; seeing panel after panel of only men presenting reinforces implicit bias. If you can’t think of a female theorist who is working on the topic of your special session or event, review recent issues of music theory journals, and check out the SMT Committee on the Status of Women’s most recent resource, a directory of women in music theory, developed by student member, Stefanie Acevedo.

Jennifer Bain

List of citations:

bell hooks. Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center. London: Pluto Press, 1984; 2nd edition, 2000.

Avoiding gender bias in reference writing.” Commission on the Status of Women, University of Arizona.

July/August Featured Links from Facebook Discussions

Since some of our members are not able to use Facebook (personal, professional, etc. reasons), we have decided to start a blog post that features some of the main links/posts shared on our Facebook page.

Disclaimer: Not all links are re-posted – please don’t take it personally if things you posted are not re-linked. Links are selected based on number of views/likes/comments and relevancy.

Opportunities:

WiMIR Mentorship Program
Luna Composition Lab Mentorship Program

Blog Posts/Opinions:

Reflections on Risk by Ashley Fure
Tacet Acceptance of Structural Inequality in Classical Music
On Impostor Syndrome
How an Orchestra is Using Music to Say Black Lives Matter

Research/Articles:

Gender Composition and Salary of the Music Faculty in NASM Accredited UniversitiesContemporary Music Review Issue on “Gender, Creativity, and Education in Digital Musics and Sound Art.” 

For “Fun”:

Glamour Article on Gap Ads

Not-All-Male Panels: Tips for Conference Organizers

My first post on all-male panels (https://womeninmusictheory.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/all-male-panels-at-smt/) answered a reader’s question about how he should respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at this year’s SMT Annual Meeting in St. Louis. But what about future, not-necessarily-SMT conferences where speakers have not yet been invited? If you’re organizing a music theory conference yourself, how can you ensure the inclusion of women among invited speakers in a field where men outnumber women 2-to-1?

Here are some excellent tips from Feminist Philosophers (a sister or perhaps mother blog to What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?, the inspiration for our CSW site). The author(s) offer these suggestions to conference organizers, but also anthology editors and “anyone else who is putting together a collection of philosophers and finding they’re all male:”

“So, you’re trying to think of people to invite to your conference, and all the ones who come to mind are male. Well, there was one woman but she said she was too busy. You’ve read (perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere) about the harms this can do in terms of implicit bias and stereotype threat. So you’d like to avoid an all-male conference. How might you do this?
What follows are some suggestions:
1. Realise that the first names you think of are overwhelmingly likely to be male. This is exactly what work on implicit bias would predict. So if you want some female names, you’ll need to work a little harder. You might ask around a bit. Or you might look at the papers cited by some of the men you’ve thought of to find some women who work in the area. Neither of these is ideal, though, since the same biases will make it harder for others to think of women, or to remember to cite them. Perhaps a better idea is to search for your topic on [IIMP/Music Index/RILM], and see what women have written on it.
2. Studies have shown that women often need to have done a lot more to be considered successful than men do. There’s a good chance that you’re only thinking of super-famous women, while considering much less famous men. That is, you may well be setting the bar higher for women. So consider inviting some less famous women than those you first thought of. (This will also help redress injustice, since in many cases implicit bias will have been involved in these women being less famous.)
3. Don’t wait till the last minute to invite women.
4. If there really are not that many women in your field, perhaps consult with them first about dates. You have to ask someone first, so why not them?
5. Women are often at lower-prestige institutions, in lower ranked jobs. This means they’re likely to have less access to funds. (In a recent poll, we found that lack of funds was the top reason women declined invitations.) One way to make it more possible for women to attend would be to prioritise funding for those with less resources to draw upon. The super-famous often have super-big research accounts too. So go ahead and ask if they can self-fund. (If they’re offended by the question, they’re arseholes and you don’t want them at your conference.
6. Offer childcare at your conference. It’s not as hard as you think. [The CSW has found it’s not easy, either, but that’s a topic for another post. SMT does offer childcare grants to conference attendees, though; see https://societymusictheory.org/grants/childcare.]”

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/how-to-avoid-a-gendered-conference/

These tips are part of FP’s “Gendered Conference Campaign,” and–especially if you’ve been asking yourself “what’s the harm in having an all-male panels, anyway?”–I highly recommend reading their page explaining the reasons behind this campaign:

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/gendered-conference-campaign/

Finally, how could I not leave you with some music? Here’s a link to the Gendered Conference Campaign’s own theme song! (I think given our field, we should have a contest to come up with our own!)

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/i-like-to-see-the-ladies/

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair