Professor and Maynard A. Amerine Endowed Chair, Viticulture and Enology
ADVANCE Associate Director and Policy and Practices Review Initiative Co-Director
When geneticist Linda Bisson arrived at UC Davis in 1985, she found the collaboration and lack of ego in the Department of Viticulture and Enology unusual. She proudly calls the campus a “jerk-free zone.”
“I’ve never regretted spending my career here,” said Bisson. “Davis is a nurturing, supportive place, where women speak and people listen.”
Advancing women in science
In her leadership role with UC Davis ADVANCE, a five-year National Science Foundation grant program to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, Bisson figures out how to find and address barriers to inclusion.
“We don’t want to lose that talent pool,” said Bisson. “The more diversity we have, the faster and better the outcome to important issues of society.”
“We don’t want to lose that talent pool. The more diversity we have, the faster and better the outcome to important issues of society.”
ADVANCE is completing a major study of the career paths of Latinas selected for the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship program. The study seeks answers for the high drop-out rate of Latinas from post-doc to faculty positions.
“There’s clearly no issue with creativity, ability or competitiveness, so what’s going on?” said Bisson. “I think the study will provide a lot of information about their reasons for walking away from academia.”
Understanding implicit bias
Implicit bias is a big obstacle for women in STEM, Bisson said. “Society likes to have order and people in certain positions. Something unconsciously seems wrong if a woman is in a position of self-promotion or leadership, instead of a nurturer, and the reverse is true for men.” Bisson recalls talking to a Latina scientist who had left academia for industry because she was tired of being mistaken for a janitor.
“Once you’re aware of [implicit bias], you control it. We just need to get people talking about it.”
Educating people about what implicit bias is and how it plays out in their daily lives is the best way to combat it, says Bisson. ADVANCE offers faculty-driven implicit bias training for search committee members through the Strength Through Equity and Diversity program. She’d like to develop a training program for students, too.
“Once you’re aware of it, you control it. We just need to get people talking about it.”