Misconceiving merit: Paradoxes of excellence and devotion in academic science and engineering
How is it that academic STEM, which reveres meritocracy, produces outcomes in which women, LGBTQ individuals, and some racial minority academics are systematically underrepresented and devalued? In contrast to the common focus on implicit bias, Cech and Blair-Loy examine the cultural foundations of academic STEM. Although academic scientists today view implicit bias as distorting academic judgement, most STEM faculty venerate the core cultural content of academic STEM. The authors define this core cultural content as a set of “cultural schemas,” historically rooted, broadly-shared understandings of merit that shape cognition, emotion, and moral commitments.
The “schema of scientific excellence” highlights the qualities of individual brilliance and assertive self-promotion. The “work devotion schema” demands single-minded allegiance of STEM faculty to the scientific vocation and delegitimates faculty with commitments to caregiving. When these schemas are used as yardsticks, they mis-measure merit. This talk summarizes the main points of a book by the same title, based on a multi-method case study at one R1 university.