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Gender bias in scientists can build the wrong knowledge over generations

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Scientific progress can be built on biased approaches. For example, the way chemicals are absorbed by the human body can be focused on factory workers instead of beauty salon workers (@criadoperez2020Invisible women: exposing data bias in a world designed for men). The main challenges is that one can focus on problems arising from contact with the skin or through the respiratory system. Ventilation may have opposite effects on different contexts, and safety tools may simply not be designed for women (like masks), or for the jobs they actually do. It is therefore possible to wonder whether the egoistic scientific incentives that exist in funding agencies are fueling a spiral that ends in a detrimental gendered solution-gap.

The problem with this kind of bias is that it builds very slowly over generations, and it takes a huge effort to pin point and understand that general guidelines may have been written without taking into account the work done by women, their physiology, etc. However, this knowledge piles up over so many generations and amendments in the policies, and union struggles that at some point it becomes almost impossible to identify the biased path that was followed. This is exactly and example of how incremental change can lead to undesired outcomes.

Access to data is, perhaps, the only way to identify patterns that are skewed in disfavor of a part of society.

Tags: #gender-data-gap #gender-bias-in-science


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