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When gender bias is active in an organizational environment, it can result—perhaps paradoxically—in conflict among women. Williams discussed how if women receive the message that there is room at the top of an organizational structure for only one or a few women, this can cause conflict between them. Anecdotal information suggests that women in science sometimes disassociate from the disadvantaged group (gender or ethnicity): “I’m not a woman, I’m a scientist.”

Williams addressed the shape that the “mommy wars” can take in academia. Academia includes women who 1) chose not to have children and gave priority to their academic career; 2) chose to have children but did not take family leave or otherwise perceptibly disrupt their academic careers; and 3) chose to have children and take family leave or request part-time appointments. Because of the different choices and assumptions made by those in the three groups, tension often erupts among the groups.


In the breakout session on multiple marginalities, Williams discussed in greater detail how biases can be changed systematically. She urged that scholars and institutions committed to making university culture hospitable to all women and men bring in experts on organizational change, given that universities are complex and can be difficult to change given their relative lack of hierarchy. University faculty have a relatively high degree of autonomy in contrast to employees in many other sectors, including industry, where corporations often have more rigid reporting requirements.

The organization that Williams directs, the Center for Work-Life Law (, has developed several sets of best practices for monitoring and modifying practices that may carry implicit bias against women and people of color, including:

•   work-load negotiations

•   start-up agreements

•   performance reviews

•   the design of policies for maternity leave, paternity leave, spousal assisted hiring, and childcare

The Center for Work-Life Law is also funding studies to evaluate specific factors that contribute to successful motherhood-work balance.

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