Diversity training is challenging and can evoke strong emotional responses from participants including resistance, shame, confusion, powerlessness, defensiveness, and anger. These responses create complex situations for both presenters and other learners. We observed 3 experienced presenters as they implemented 41 gender bias literacy workshops for 376 faculty from 42 STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) departments at one Midwestern university. We recorded questions and answers as well as participants’ non-verbal activity during each 2.5-hour workshop. Employing content analysis and critical incident technique, we identified content that elicited heightened activity and challenging dialogues among presenters and faculty. Results from analysis of this observational data found three important findings: (1) presenters continually reinforced the idea that implicit bias is ordinary and pervasive, thus avoiding participant alienation by allowing participants to protect their self-worth and integrity; (2) difficult dialogues were managed calmly without verbal sparring or relinquishing control; (3) the presenters created an environment where individuals were more likely to accept threatening information.


Gender Bias, Faculty, STEMM, Prejudice, Nonverbal Communication, Difficult Dialogues, Challenging Discussions

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Carol Isaac is assistant professor, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed to: Carol Isaac, PhD, Tift College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership, Mercer University, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30341. E-mail: isaac_ca@mercer.edu.

Linda Baier Manwell, MS, is the Research Program Administrator for the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Since 2007, she has also been the National Training Coordinator for VA Women’s Health Services.

Dr. Patricia G. Devine is professor and chair, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.

Cecilia E. Ford is professor, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.

Angela Byars-Winston is associate professor, Department of Medicine Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

Evelyn Fine is researcher, Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI), University of Wisconsin-Madison; Madison, Wisconsin.

Jennifer Thurik Sheridan is executive and research director, Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.

Dr. Molly Carnes is director, Center for Women’s Health Research, professor, Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Industrial & Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, and part-time physician, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin.


This research was supported the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Medicine. Dr. Carnes is employed part time by the William S. Middleton Veterans Hospital (GRECC manuscript # 2014-xx). None of the authors have any commercial interests or any conflict of interests relevant to the material presented in this manuscript. Funding/Support: This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01 GM088477, DP4 GM096822, and R25 GM083252.

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