Diversity is important in science, in nature, in business and in communities. 

 

Male researchers thought only male birds sang. Women researchers showed that they were wrong.

For over 150 years everybody 'knew' that only male birds sang. Like many beliefs, however, this was shown to be false. In the 1990's when women entered the field of ornithology, the study of birds, they started to document that female birds also sang. Female bird song is widespread especially in the tropics, female birds have complex songs, and in some species bird pairs even sing duets with each other!

So why didn't the male scientists notice this before women documented female bird songs? Isn't science supposed to be unbiased?

The answer is that all people, included scientists, have conscious and unconscious biases. Scientific research can be slanted depending on who does the research. People can have bias based on race, gender or religion that can influence their decisions and how they treat other people. The problem with unconscious bias is that you are not aware that you have it. For more about unconscious bias read this article:
‘A-HA’ activities for unconscious bias training.

In this case, male scientist all 'knew' that only male birds used song as courtship. Women entering the field had no such preconceived notions and so made breakthroughs in the area of female bird songs.

To combat unconscious bias you first have to be aware of it. One way is to take tests to identify where you might have unconscious bias. Check out Project Implicit from Harvard University to test yourself. This nonprofit organization is designed to help combat bias. It will give you interesting insights into your inner thinking.

It is important to remember that ALL people; no matter age, gender, race or ethnic background; have some forms of bias. It is natural to feel a little upset or defensive about having bias when you first think about it. Many people like to believe that they have no bias and are purely logical thinkers. However, unless your parents are both Vulcan you are actually controlled by emotion as much as logic. Just remind yourself that it is a natural human condition that we all have be aware of and fight to overcome.

You are not a bad person because you have bias but you can become a better, stronger, and smarter person by working to understand and overcome your conscious and unconscious bias. Understanding why you act or think in certain ways can open up a slew of new possibilities and opportunities.

Another way to combat unconscious bias is to actively seek diversity. A diverse group of people; whether in a research, business or social setting; will generate better ideas and help dispel ideas caused by the bias of a monolithic group. Diversity in a company generates more profits, diversity in science generates better research with less bias, and diversity in social situations helps open your mind to others' points of view.

For more on this topic see this 2020 article by Omland, Rose, and Odom Scientists thought only male birds sang - until women joined the research.

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Learn from reading different viewpoints

Chris Newman is a Black and Native American farmer who discusses how his agricultural journey differs from that of many white farmers. He is actively trying to combat bias in the agricultural community.

In particular, Chris has pointed out some of the problems with Joel Salatin's message.

Read about him in these articles:

Meet One Farmer Who Left His Tech Job To Transform Northern Virginia's Agroscape.

Chris Newman: Typing truth in the fight for equity in farming.

Joel Salatin’s Unsustainable Myth. His go-it-alone message made him a star of the food movement. Then a young Black farmer dug into what he was really saying.