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Class, Gender, and Social Dynamics

Women’s Accounts of Navigating the Risk of Party Rape in Greek Life at an Elite College

The risk of being sexually assaulted is a pervasive problem for women in historically White Greek life, yet research before 2010 shows women rarely held institutions responsible for these incidents and instead engaged in victim-blaming. In Sociology of Education, IPR sociologist Simone Ispa-Landa and Northwestern postdoctoral student Sara Thomas investigate how women at an elite college think about sexual assault at fraternity parities and solutions to sexual violence. Between 2017 and 2019, the researchers conducted 121 interviews with 68 college-aged women in historically White sororities. The interviews revealed that these women were highly invested in maintaining the historically white Greek party scene. Unlike women from past studies, they did not blame women who were assaulted; instead, they blamed institutions for failing to keep them safe from sexual assault and creating reporting mechanisms that retraumatized survivors. The women also talked about trying to protect themselves and other women at parties by designating someone as a “sober sister” to monitor behavior or share the names of men who had or might perpetrate sexual assault. Future research on women’s responses to sexual assault in Greek life could look at less selective institutions, include observations of women’s behavior at parties, and look at non-cisgender perspectives on prevention strategies.

Gender-Diverse Teams Produce More Novel and Higher-Impact Research

Over the last several decades, the number of women conducting medical research has increased significantly, female scientists which have created new opportunities for different research team dynamics instead of traditional all-male teams. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, IPR associates Brian Uzzi, Benjamin Jones, and their colleagues investigate the changing gender demographics of science teams and how they affect research performance. The researchers conducted an analysis of 6.6 million academic studies published since 2000 across 15,000 different medical journals worldwide. The studies were from 45 medical sub-fields and 18 additional scientific disciplines. They find that mixed-gender teams of medical scientists published studies that are up to 9% more novel and 14.6% more likely to be high-impact papers than those published by same-gender teams, a relationship that grows even stronger the more gender balance on the team. They also discover that while the number of studies by mixed-gender teams has grown, they are underrepresented in academic research. A second analysis of all other fields in science, which included an additional 19 million papers since 2000, showed that relationships between mixed gender teams and impact generalized to other scientific fields.  The evidence suggests that gender-diverse teams have untapped potential to produce innovative research, but further study is necessary to understand why mixed-gender teams outperform same-gender teams. The findings also highlight new ways to improve research performance through team dynamics, and they can inform diversity, equity, and inclusion interventions. Uzzi is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change. Jones is the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship. 

Exploring Black Girl Space

The development of Black girls and Black girl space, or a space designed for Black girls, has been understudied in academic research. In the Journal of Research on Adolescence, IPR developmental psychologist Onnie Rogers and her co-author examine the meaning and potential of spaces that intentionally serve Black girls in an effort to counter the racist and sexist cultural norms that threaten Black girls’ identities and sense of wellbeing. The researchers used data from a larger longitudinal study of Black girls attending a predominantly Black all-girls school, a Black girl space, that offers workshops and mentorships from Black women and programming directed toward Black girls. They analyzed open-ended interviews conducted in 2018 with 17 Black high school girls to understand how they made sense of their school. The researchers asked the girls whether they liked school, the relationship between students and teachers, and the importance of having a school like theirs exist. In the interviews, the girls discussed relational challenges they experienced at school but also how they felt known in their school by being surrounded by so many other Black girls and women. They also talked about their frustration with a school policy banning cell phones when their school’s technology didn’t always work and problems with the structure of the school and general lack of funding. The findings show how Black girls were able to see the school as a place of resistance to tell counternarratives about being a Black girl, but they also recognized how the physical space posed barriers and reinforced inequalities, such as few extracurriculars and academic resources. The researchers argue that when cultivating Black girl space, experiencing connection with other Black girls matters, but so do the physical space, policies, and funding structures that regulate it. Listening to the voices of Black girls is crucial for developmental science research to value and learn from their experiences.