Schiebinger recognized by the American Medical Women’s Association

Londa Schiebinger
Londa Schiebinger has been recognized by the American Medical Women’s Association.

LONDA SCHIEBINGER, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science, will receive the Presidential Recognition Award from the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) at its annual award luncheon on April 1. The award, conferred annually, honors outstanding achievements in the sciences, medicine, clinical practice, leadership, humanitarianism and philanthropy.

Founded in 1915, AMWA is an organization devoted to advancing women’s health and women in medicine. This year, AMWA will honor Schiebinger “for her inspiring work to raise awareness of the broad expanse of sex and gender differences and launching the Gendered Innovations program at Stanford University.”

Launched under Schiebinger in 2009, Gendered Innovations uses sex and gender analysis to foster innovation in science and technology. It does so not only by spotlighting gender bias, but also by supplying scientists and engineers with practical methods for gender-responsive research and development.

“People are interested in diversity and inclusion; gender analytics can also influence what research you choose to do,” said Schiebinger, who will also receive an honorary doctorate in science from Sweden’s Lund University in June.

The scope of Gendered Innovations is as broad as the fields it represents: design and scientific research, health and medicine, engineering and public policy. For want of an adequate reference group, men can suffer for years before receiving treatment for osteoporosis; for every seat belt designed with the average male body in mind, women risk losing a pregnancy in a motor vehicle accident. According to Schiebinger and her international team of researchers, errors like these are common and their consequences harmful.

“Doing research wrong costs lives and money,” said Schiebinger. “The thing that catches people’s attention is that between 1997 and 2000, the FDA withdrew 10 drugs from the U.S. market it deemed life-threatening”—eight of which posed even greater risks to women’s health.

Yet distilling gender theory into scientific practice was no simple task. Schiebinger and her colleagues began Gendered Innovations by hosting a series of workshops with scientists and engineers, participatory research funded by the European Commission. Their collaboration yielded a dozen methods for incorporating sex and gender analysis into research. With these methods, researchers have proposed solutions to gender bias in everything from the genetics of sex determination to the overuse of masculine pronouns in machine translations.

“We developed methods that translate 30 years of gender theory into practical methods for working with scientists and engineers,” Schiebinger said of Gendered Innovation’s origins. “It’s like translational medicine—the scientists and engineers tell us how they do their work, and we consider where it might be productive to consider some aspect of sex and gender.”

Long fascinated by the role of gender in science and technology, Schiebinger will teach “Beyond Pink and Blue: Gender in Tech” this spring quarter in Stanford’s “Beyond Pink” will explore how incorporating gender analysis into design thinking might foster more inclusive work environments and innovative design – particularly in the technology sector. The course parallels a partnership with SHERI SHEPPARD, professor of mechanical engineering, to integrate gender analysis into core courses in engineering.

“We want to go where the engineers live and connect with them,” said Schiebinger.

See Schiebinger discuss Gendered Innovations in Science, Medicine and Engineering on YouTube.