myPostdoc Monthly: Did They Really Just Say That?! Responding to Bias at Work
Have you ever been in a conversation when someone said something biased that made you uncomfortable, but you were not sure how to respond? Most of us struggle to address these all too common situations, whether in the classroom, the workplace, the doctor’s office, etc. Biased comments can emerge while spending time with friends, family, or strangers and may target either our own identities or the identities of others. Even though we want to do what is right and speak up for equality, we do not always know how to take action in that awkward moment—especially if we are not sure whether the person making the comment actually meant to cause harm.
As individuals dedicated to dismantling systemic oppression, we must be empowered to take action in these moments when bias manifests so that we can create welcoming, inclusive, and affirming environments for all people. This training seeks to empower and equip participants to speak out in response to those all too common, “wait…did they really just say that?!” moments when bias emerges. This training illustrates the importance of committing to being an active bystander in moments when bias emerges through microaggressions. This session will equip participants with actionable skills to facilitate educational conversations in response to comments/actions that are transphobic, homophobic, racist, ableist, sexist, etc., rather than eliciting a defensive reaction from the person who has (perhaps unintentionally) caused harm through their biased remarks.
Participants in this training will thus learn how to communicate effectively in challenging situations through the employment of strategies that can be tailored to the particular situation at hand. Corporations, nonprofits, and governmental organizations as well as colleges and universities value and want a diverse workforce. As a prospective or current employee you will be asked about ways in which you support diversity regardless of whether or not you belong to an underrepresented group. Therefore, they also will look positively upon job applicants and employees that have training in issues like those presented in this workshop. This would be complementary to the Diversity 101 session presented last year. This workshop will give participants tools to deal with incidents that are far too common in work environments, which certainly do not exclude the institutions that typically hire postdocs. Given the large underrepresentation of some groups in the postdoctoral workforce, it is imperative that all of us contribute to a more inclusive environment for these groups to thrive and grow. Having a more inclusive environment will also help with the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in graduate programs, postdoctoral training, faculty, and other professional positions. We all play a role in this and this workshop is essential to increase the likelihood of action on the part of anyone who is the target of or a witness to incidents of bias.
A molecular biologist and biochemist by training, J. Marcela Hernandez, Ph.D., designs and implements programs to enhance retention, and support of postdoctoral scholars including a special focus on those with underrepresented backgrounds. She became a scientist thanks to an excellent doctoral mentor who inspired her, trained her, and mentored her. For this reason she is very passionate about mentoring and is working to help the next generation of STEM professionals navigate successfully to rewarding careers. Hernandez holds a master's degree and a doctoral degree in biochemistry.
Lena Tenney, M.Ed., (they/them/theirs) is the coordinator of public engagement for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. They direct the facilitation portfolio of the race and cognition program, which includes traveling around the nation to facilitate workshops and presentations about implicit bias, structural racism, being an active bystander, and whiteness. During their time at Kirwan, they have facilitated more than 180 sessions reaching over 13,000 participants in 17 states. Tenney is a co-author of the 2017 edition of the Kirwan Institute’s State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review publication and a co-creator of the Implicit Bias Module Series online learning platform. A trained intergroup dialogue facilitator, Tenney has a background in inclusive education and coalitional activism work. They are a founding member of two grassroots community activist groups that have sought to ensure legal protections for and institutional inclusion of LGBTQ individuals at the municipal and campus levels. They currently serves as a member of the board of directors for TransOhio--a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for transgender individuals and communities--and previously served on the LGBTQ student success task force for The Ohio State University. Tenney graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master of Education and a Master of Public Administration. They also hold a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and history from the University of Oklahoma.