The Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education is delighted to be hosting Dr. Erin Cech, Associate Professor of Sociology (with a courtesy appointment in Mechanical Engineering) and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Michigan. Dr. Cech is the author of two recent books Misconceiving Merit: Paradoxes of Excellence and Devotion in Academic Science and Engineering (published in 2022 by the University of Chicago Press and co-authored with Dr. Mary Blair-Loy who will be speaking at Lafayette in April) and The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality (published in 2021 by the University of California Press). Dr. Cech’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation and she is the author of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. Professor Cech examines cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction: “specifically, how inequality is reproduced through processes that are not overtly discriminatory or coercive, but rather those that are built into seemingly innocuous cultural beliefs and practices.” A reception in Oechsle lobby will follow Dr. Cech’s presentation.
Dr. Cech’s presentation is part of the semester long programming on the “Culture of STEM” organized by the Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education. Please go to the Hanson Center website for more details.
The Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education is grateful to the follow groups for co-sponsoring Dr. Cech’s visit: Africana Studies Program, Anthropology and Sociology Department, Engineering Division, Psychology Department, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.
Abstract of Presentation
Can the culture of STEM help reproduce inequality? The professional cultures of STEM, which give each discipline its particular “feel” and unite discipline members under a taken-for-granted system of meanings and values, are not benign. Drawing from several NSF-funded survey and interview-based studies, Dr. Cech argues that these professional cultures can have built within them disadvantages for women, people of color, and other under-represented groups in STEM. Specifically, she will discuss the role of three particular cultural ideologies—schemas of scientific excellence, depoliticization, and the meritocratic ideology—in producing these disadvantages. Dr. Cech will end by explaining why decisions (e.g. admissions, hiring, tenure) that partially rely on assessments of individuals’ “fit” with professional cultures are particularly important to critically examine for their potential to contribute to inequality.