This social psychologist was trained in the areas of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. But his participation in the Tiger Advocates program made him even more aware of gender bias – and he wanted to do something about it. Meet Senior Tiger Advocate Tom Britt.
What roles do you serve at the university?
I am a professor in the psychology department and chair of our tenure and promotion committee. I mentor graduate students in our industrial/organizational psychology doctoral program and participate in our department’s mentoring program. I am also a senior advocate dedicated to removing gender bias at the university.
How long have you been a Tiger Advocate?
This is the beginning of my third year as a Tiger Advocate
Why did you decide to become a Tiger Advocate, and what do you hope to accomplish?
Being a social psychologist, I was trained in the areas of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. I was aware of research highlighting that gender discrimination is still a pervasive element of our society. When I heard about a program that was dedicated to reducing gender bias at Clemson University through educating and equipping male faculty with the knowledge and resources they need to combat gender bias in their departments, I was excited to participate. I also felt it was important to understand issues of gender bias in academic settings in order to recognize bias occurring in my sphere of influence and hopefully do what I could eliminate bias affecting the treatment and evaluation of women faculty.
What are some interesting things that you’ve learned as part of your participation in the Tiger Advocates program?
The most interesting things I have learned have come from the stories of women faculty at Clemson regarding the bias they have experienced at the university. We have taken these stories and incorporated them into our training for faculty men at the university. Although the stories from women faculty indicate bias is still present, I have also been pleased by the shared purpose that has emerged when we have workshops with male faculty at Clemson. At first, we thought we would get a lot of pushback from male faculty when discussing research on gender bias in academia and the responsibility of male faculty to address this bias. However, our workshops have been more characterized by a shared commitment to removing gender bias at the university through holding men accountable for bias as it occurs.
What are some changes you’ve made as a result of participating in the Tiger Advocates program?
Participating in the Tiger Advocates program has made me more aware of how men and women faculty are treated in different settings. I pay attention to whether women are interrupted more than men or are discouraged from talking in depth about work-related issues. I have also been more aware of the presence of gender bias in course evaluations and letters of recommendation, and take this potential bias into account when evaluating women faculty and considering prospective women graduate students.
What would you like faculty members to know about the Tiger Advocates program?
I would like to emphasize that becoming a Tiger Advocate only requires participation in a two-hour workshop and a willingness to be on the lookout for gender bias and act when appropriate. The more male faculty who participate in the training and become advocates, the more likely it is that the organizational climate at Clemson will improve for women faculty and the entire university.
About Tiger Advocates
Part of the NSF-funded ADVANCE initiative, Tiger Advocates is a group of faculty interested in supporting equality in their departments, colleges and throughout the university. Advocates are active and effective proponents of gender diversity and equality specifically in terms of increasing the number of women and underrepresented faculty, encouraging the hiring for and promotion of women and underrepresented faculty into administrative positions, and ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all faculty within their academic units. Learn more here.