Montefiore Einstein Department of Medicine

2014 Sharon Silbiger Lecture Promotes Gender Diversity in Science Fields

Dr. Corinne Moss-Racusin Dr. Victor Schuster Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx NY
Dr. Moss-Racusin with Dr. Schuster and Dr. Silbiger's son Jonah.

On Monday, October 6, 2014, Dr. Corinne Moss-Racusin, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College, delivered the second annual Sharon Silbiger, MD Memorial Lecture entitled "The Myth of Meritocracy? Demonstrating and Addressing Gender Bias in Academic Science". She discussed the importance of addressing the persistent lack of diversity at the top levels of STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine).

Dr. Moss-Racusin's research focuses on understanding and ameliorating inequality within institutions. She is interested in stereotyping processes and diversity, gender roles, and implicit social cognition, studying the ways in which stereotypes shape behavior, social judgments, and self-regulation, and how these in turn impact intergroup relations and the equitable treatment of stigmatized group members within institutions. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Dr. Alan Spiegel Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx NY
Lilli Silbiger, Sharon's mother, with Dean Alan Spiegel.

"Despite some progress that has been made throughout the decades, we still have quite a ways to go in terms of diversifying the highest levels of achievement, reward, and recognition," said Dr. Moss-Racusin. "Pervasive gender stereotypes are still very present, even among newer generations, and the problem is not fixing itself. We need to engage with the problem more directly if we want some movement on these issues."

Throughout the course of the lecture, Dr. Moss-Racusin covered an extensive literature review finding that, even at higher levels, women in STEMM fields are challenged in a number of areas, from assignments, more committee work, and shorter, more doubtful recommendation letters to lower salaries, inequitable lab space, and outright harassment. Her recent study investigated whether equally qualified male and female students would be judged as equally competent, advanced equally, rewarded equally, and mentored equally by male and female faculty members; and found that both male and female faculty members consistently rated male students higher in competence, hireability, mentoring, and proposed salary.

Dr. Sharon Silbiger family Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx NY
Left to right: Laurie Silbiger, Sharon's sister, with son Julian Rothschild, a third-year Einstein medical student, husband Brian Rothschild, and Dr. Ellen Harrison.

Dr. Moss-Racusin also presented promising outcomes of a diversity intervention she recently implemented for academic scientists at the National Academies Summer Institute, resulting in raising diversity awareness, reducing gender bias, and increasing promotion focus. She advocated for continued honest conversations about gender bias, evidence-based changes to hiring and mentoring policies, funding-linked training for subtle bias, and continued research in testing and implementing intervention strategies.

"Gender parity really is in the best interest of our competitiveness as a nation and the advancement of our scientific and medical enterprises, and we need our labs and institutions to be functioning at the absolute highest levels," she said. "Life-saving outcomes hang in the balance of this research, and if we are systematically preventing the full participation of people from different backgrounds, then we all stand to lose. Understanding gender bias can promote meritocracy and diversity and ultimately excellence across the board."

Dr. Sharon Silbiger Department of Medicine Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx NY
Sharon Silbiger, MD

Dr. Silbiger, Professor of Medicine and Associate Chair of Medicine for Undergraduate Education, passed away September 6, 2012 after a long battle with chondrosarcoma. She was an outstanding nephrologist and active investigator on the role of gender in renal disease progression. Before her appointment to the Associate Chair position, she was House Staff Program Director for the Department of Medicine for nearly a decade. Nationally, Dr. Silbiger was immediate past-president of Women in Nephrology, a standing committee of the American Society of Nephrology (where she was a vocal proponent of gender equity in the organization), founding Vice Chair of the ASN Workforce Committee, a member of the ASN Board of Advisors, and as a member of the ASN Task Force on Increasing Interest in Nephrology Careers. (more)

The Sharon Silbiger, M.D. Fund was established in her memory and supports this annual lectureship in the Department of Medicine.

"Sharon was a strong advocate for the advancement of women in academic medicine. In each of her many positions, Sharon was a role model for many other women in academic nephrology. For all of these reasons, Dr. Moss-Racusin's address is a worthy tribute to Dr. Silbiger and the principles for which she stood," said Dr. Victor Schuster, Senior Vice Dean at Einstein and host of the lecture.

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