Becoming Bias Literate

​According to NAS (2006), most faculty, men and women, hold 11 common beliefs about women and science. These beliefs were at the root of much of the implicit bias in US academic institutions despite the evidence showing they were myths. However, these beliefs shaped—and continue to shape—departmental and institutional culture at universities, as well as policy. Which beliefs have you heard on grounds?

For scholars across many disciplines, the first step in changing organizational culture is “bias literacy”. We are all familiar with literacy as a way to isolate a particular knowledge area (reading, writing, or statistics) and provide measures of competency. But it is also a set of expectations for individual and organizational behavior among people who share a culture [Sevo and Chubin 2008]. Bias Literacy means the ability to recognize our own biases as individuals and then take action to set new expectations for ourselves and the organization [Carnes et al 2012.]

The stages of bias literacy mirror adult learning theory. Click on each stage to see a definition, examples, and to learn more.

1.Unconscious Incompetence 2.Conscious Incompetence 3.Conscious Competence 4.Unconscious Competence 5.Reflective Competence

Asses your Bias Literacy using the Harvard Implicit Association Test

How to Recognize Gender Bias: the first step in Bias Literacy

Learn to recognize these six types of gender bias to reach a greater bias literacy. Mouse over the quote below and see the type and definition of the gender bias.

“She has two small children, so she won’t have the same level of dedication and time commitment to her research and teaching as this other candidate.” 


“I don’t know about this candidate. She was extremely self-assured and arrogant during the interview. I’m not sure she’s willing to be collaborative or serve on committees.”




“The University seeks an innovative, productive scholar working on the cutting edge of their discipline to join the X department.”


“Police officer or nurse—which job do you immediately consider female?”




At the start of a meeting, a committee member says, “As a search committee, we are charged with hiring a cutting edge scholar willing to take intellectual risks. Let’s get started.”


“There aren’t a lot of women in this field because you need strong math skills. So are you sure you want to major in this?”