The Effect of an Intervention to Break the Gender Bias Habit for Faculty at One Institution: A Cluster Randomized, Controlled Trial

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There is growing evidence that stereotype- based bias functions like a habit as an ingrained pattern of thoughts and behaviors.Changing a habit is a multistep process. Successful habit-changing interventions not only increase awareness of problematic behavior but must motivate individuals to learn and deliberately practice new behaviors until they become habitual. We conducted a pair-matched, single-blind, cluster randomized, controlled study at the University of Wisconsin– Madison (UW-Madison) comparing a gender bias habit-reducing intervention delivered separately to 46 departments with 46 control departments. The control departments were offered the intervention after its effects were assessed in the experimental departments (“wait-list controls”). Participants were faculty in these 92 medicine, science, or engineering departments.  Faculty in departments exposed to the gender-bias-habit- reducing intervention demonstrated immediate boosts in several proximal requisites of intentional behavioral change: personal awareness, internal motivation, perception of benefits, and self-efficacy to engage in gender-equity- promoting behaviors. The sustained increase in self-efficacy beliefs at three months provides strong evidence of the effectiveness of the intervention. Self-efficacy is the cornerstone of widely accepted behavioural change theories.Positive outcome expectations are also important in promoting behavioural change and increased at three days after the intervention. 

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