Paper No. 217-8
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
THE LEAKY PIPELINE PLAYBOOK: A CRITICAL LOOK AT GATEKEEPING METHODS THAT PERPETUATE THE DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN AND PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE GEOSCIENCES AND SOME STRATEGIES FOR INTERRUPTING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PLAYBOOK MOVES
The phrase “leaky pipeline” describes the diminishing numbers of women and people of color (POC) in STEM at every stage of their academic careers. This term implies a deficit-minded view of women’s and POC’s persistence in STEM because it focuses on their response
to the blockages in the pipeline rather than the origins of the blockages. Interrupting the leaky pipeline requires an introspective look at the actions that originate with gatekeepers that hold the power to make or break academic careers. The leaky pipeline is achieved in part by a playbook of actions and behaviors that are used to reinforce and perpetuate the disenfranchisement of women and people of color in STEM. My goal here is to shine light on the actions and behaviors that represent pipeline blockages so that they can be identified and removed. In this presentation, I draw from my experience as a woman of color in graduate school and on the tenure track and describe 6 key moves in the Leaky Pipeline Playbook that I experienced: 1) weaponizing the ‘unwritten curriculum’, 2) “steering down” into less visible and impactful career opportunities, 3) presuming incompetence, 4) qualifying of success and academic achievements, 5) requiring overt displays of gratitude and subservience, and 6) malicious advisement and bullying.
Interrupting the effectiveness of these playbook moves requires the creation and enforcement of effective policies by universities, professional organizations, and funding agencies. The necessary reforms at universities include: 1) formally teaching the ‘unwritten curriculum’ to students and early career professionals, 2) making student mentoring a meaningful component of the retention-tenure-promotion process at universities, and 3) creating ‘Student Bill of Rights’ policies that outline what students can expect from their institutions. Professional organizations that adopt codes of conduct must operate independently of university and institutional Title IX offices. Funding agencies such as NSF must adopt reporting measures that allow students and post-docs to verify how their involvement is reported by PIs in funded proposals and annual reports. Only with these measures of accountability in place can we make strides towards ending the culture of impunity that allows the leaky pipeline playbook to continue in perpetuity.