Blog Post 4: Regional difference in education in China

Candice previously wrote a very interesting blog that introduced us to the unfairness of regional education in the United States. The same thing actually exists in China as well and in this blog I would like to give an introduction on it. 

The education in China has four stages, the first stage is the primary school which is compulsive and lasts for 6 years long, the second is middle school, which is also compulsive and lasts for 3 years. After that, the compulsive education ends and things become very competitive. The third stage is a three-year high school and after which the high school students all take the most famous College Entrance Exam (also known as GaoKao) to get into a university to start their four-year higher education. 

The first difference is in the level of different provinces, take the GaoKao as an example, different provinces usually organize their own exams but in similar subjects. Then based on the test results, all the students in that province will be ranked based on their grades. The student with a higher rank has the priority to choose the university and department that they want to attend. The overall process is usually only based on their GaoKao exam results, which is very fair within the province. However, when it comes to the province level, things become different. Different universities usually give each province different numbers of students they allow, yet the number in different provinces makes huge differences. Take the two best universities in China, the Tsinghua University and Peking University as example, the number of students allowed in Beijing is 791 in 2018 whereas the total students taking the exam is around 63,000. In the province Hebei where I come from, the total students accepted by these two universities are 164, but more than 450,000 students take the exam. More explicitly, students in Beijing have around 1.25% of chance of getting into the best university of China whereas the students in Hebei is only 0.036%, the rate is more than 34 times. Some may argue that it is the same in the United States, however, as the funding of the university mostly comes from the central government rather than the provincial government. It is clearly unfair for the students in other provinces as their tax is also used in funding the universities in Beijing. In recent years, the government is making changes on this issue, however, the progress is very slow and only 2-5 quotas are changed every year, this is partially because the resistance for the reform is very large as most senior officials’ children are in Beijing. 

One result of this unfairness is that the students at Beijing have smaller pressure to get into a good university and are able to spend more time on their hobbies and interests, whereas the students at other provinces are in a much more tense atmosphere and spend most of their time studying to get better grades. When I was in college, I was often surprised by the broadness of hobbies that my classmates from Beijing or Shanghai have, because some of those hobbies can take a lot of time to practice and that is the time we do not have in high school. The unfairness also brings some unique phenomenon that probably only exist in China, for example, the GaoKao immigration where parents move to provinces of higher chance in getting into good universities to help their kids. Another example is the existence of militarized high school, where students are administered as in military in daily life to maximum their time usage on studying for the GaoKao exam, the timeline is restricted strictly in these high schools, for example, the lunch time is restricted to 10min so the saved time can be used to study math and physics. 

The second part I want to introduce is the difference between the cities and rural areas, as I grew up in the city where I can have multiple approaches to get good teaching and a quiet place to study, I always regard convenient education with adequate resources as a natural thing. This idea changed dramatically when I joined a small group to go to the rural area in one of the poorest provinces in China to conduct an investigation on compulsive study. I was shocked by the education situation there, although the kids there can still get the compulsive education required by the government, it is not easy. Firstly, as not every village has a primary school, some kids need to go to other villages for school, and some of them have to spend more than two hours on road everyday. Moreover, the salary for the teachers in these schools are usually very low, so it is very difficult to keep good teachers there, once they are experienced, they tend to move to good schools in town to live a better life. At last, after the stage of compulsive study, the kids in these areas usually choose to go outside and earn money instead of continue their study, because a lot of them fail to see the advantage and meaning of getting higher education. 

After the investigation trip, I become a advocator for the online education, as I know although there is still a lot of disadvantages exist in the online education currently, however, for the kids in these rural areas, it is probably the only solution for them to get access to the education with high quality. Moreover, the internet can bring them the chance to see what is going on in the outside world and boarder their knowledge to make wise decisions. 

The two differences I mentioned in this blog have existed for a long time in China. Currently, I cannot see any evidence for the first one to change in a short period of time, so the only thing I can do is to try to get a living permit in Beijing if I go back to China so that my kids can live an easier life. However, the second one has been improved quickly with the internet, and hopefully can be solved given more time.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #5: A woman living in a man’s world

My role:

I am a woman who stands at a whopping 5 ft 3in and carries a weight of about 130lbs. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, the average male stands at about 5 ft 8 in and weighs around 198lbs. These are not differences that typically cross my mind, but my husband brought up an interesting point to me the other day. We were watching TV and he remembered a mechanical engineer telling him that air bags are made to protect the average male, so sometimes they hurt females more during an accident. I thought woah, that’s not cool, but it’s a good blog idea, so I started to look into this topic. I looked into these two articles: and I could relate to almost every scenario that was listed. The first article talks about a lot of differences that may put women at a disadvantage. I am going to cover a few of the topics as they most relate to me. First, the average temperature of a business. I am ALWAYS cold. This article describes how the comfortable temperature is based off a man’s metabolism, so the temperature can be five degrees too cold for women. I have to bring blankets with me to certain places because it is just too cold for me. Second, the fact that men have urinals conveniently lining the bathroom space, while women have 2 or 3 stalls to use. The article mentions that typically male and female restroom space is split 50/50, but the same space can fit more urinals than stalls and men use both while women don’t, so why not give women more space to have a few more stalls and take away a urinal or two. No wonder there is always a multi-person line in the women’s room. Third, phone size. I cannot tell you how inconvenient new smartphones are for my tiny hands. I actually really wanted a certain phone during my last upgrade, but I had to get an older model because the one I wanted was way too big. I could not even hold the thing comfortably, much less use it on a day-to-day basis. Fourth, which is discussed in both articles, is car safety. On average, women are 73% more likely to get seriously injured, and 17% more likely to DIE in the event of a car crash. I actually complain about cars a lot because my height when sitting makes it so, even on the shortest setting, the seat belt rubs against my neck and it hurts. Also, since I am short, I have to crank the seat up to the tallest is can go and get close to the steering wheel just to reach the pedals. Even at the highest setting in most cars I can’t see the end of the hood. Honestly, I thought it was like that for everyone until my husband was annoyed with me for asking if I was too close to a car because I couldn’t see. This not only presents me with discomfort, but it can be dangerous for other drivers when short ladies are riding around with less than optimal visibility.  Fifth, the height of grocery store isles. This was mentioned in the article and I laughed about it, but it is honestly a big problem for me. I went into the store by myself recently and I had to actually climb up to reach something on the back of the top shelf because everything else was sold out. It was physically difficult and I’m pretty sure highly discouraged by the store, but I didn’t really have a choice because it was the last can of Lysol and I needed it to send to family in New York. Overall, most things in life are somehow made more difficult because I am a (short) women.

The last topic I want to discuss from the first article is PPE because it is very important with the coronavirus spreading. Apparently, PPE is designed specifically for men as well (that’s cool) so while you think you are safe, you probably aren’t. The article mentioned how face masks often don’t fit women or minorities because of differences in face shape and size. In times like these, this is a very scary thing for me to discover. My mom is a nurse and I can only hope her PPE fits her well enough to protect her.


I think that bias is the main player for this topic. I am sure that male engineers do not sit at work saying, “we should design this so it only protects males and not females,” but whether its implicit or explicit bias, it is and has been happening. It makes sense historically because women did not work as much so men were the only model they could think of because they were surrounded by them. There are numerous articles on closing the gender data gap, but until people accept this problem and start to address it, nothing will be fixed. As a society, inclusivity is missing, and it is causing detrimental impacts for women and minorities in some cases.

What’s missing?

The research is missing. There is a blatant lack of data for women (hence the gender data gap) that continues to be ignored. We need to push data collection for women in certain risky situations such as job setting, car stats, or chemical impacts on the body. Men and women are different in so many ways, and we get impacted differently. We are more affected by certain cancers, and we have different hormone levels, fat levels, height, weight, and size, in general, which causes vast differences in outcomes for things like car crashes. Also, like I mentioned, inclusivity of women is lacking. If women were thought of as equals, we would most likely be more represented and have more convenient and safe appliances at our disposal.


The implications for this are huge. Women are DYING because things are not made to keep us safe! It might be a little inconvenient, but if it could save your mom, sister, aunt, grandma, or any other women in your life, who cares? We have different sizes of clothes, so why can’t we have different sizes of safety vests? We need to start collecting data on women and how we are impacted by things we experience every day. I really hope that people become more aware of this problem and start to take action in order to protect women and prevent the size differences from getting worse as stats change for the average size. I’m not saying we need a model for everything in women’s size, but if things could be slightly adjusted to suit both men and women, that would be great. Certain products that could end up being deadly for women should be adjusted and fixed because that is a problem I can’t justify being ignored.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #4-Children’s books

I have heard the phrase countless times, “Children are like sponges”. This is often why many people in scientific fields find that early education outreach on certain issues are a great way to change the future, and I completely agree that this is one key part of the puzzle. While I am in no way a child development major or mother, I am passionate about teaching the future generations. Maybe it is because my mom has always been a public elementary school teacher and now assistant principal and my brother is an early education teacher for children with special needs, but I also agree that helping the youth develop and grow is imperative. This early time in their lives is vital for their cognitive and social and emotional development, which is their ability to interact with others, help themselves, and exhibit self-control.

While children and adults can change and refine their social and emotional skills, I wasn’t to focus on the time when a child is developing from 5 to 7 years old when they are just beginning school. During this time, a child’s cognitive development entails learning how to read and write. They may have a harder time focusing on a story on the whole and might only fixate on one or two parts but will remember. It has also been shown that they will be eager to please the role models/adults in their lives. This time period in their social and emotional development is also important. This is where they are developing their self esteem and learning to become more independent. They are starting to identify with a certain gender often the same sex that they are with a parent. They are starting to communicate more with other children but still mimicking adult behavior aka children are like sponges. They are becoming aware of people besides themselves and their family in the world.

All of this sets up the perfect concoction to teach kids about all the wonderful diversity in the world and how being different from themselves does not mean bad, so they grow up to be accepting adults in order to start to change society. As we have learned in this class, sometimes people and children might pick up on subtle things that were not intended so an adult does not necessarily need to say this is bad but children if not exposed or taught can start to create subconscious negative biases and stereotypes. It is of course almost impossible not to have subconscious biases, however, I feel if you start to expose children at a young age to differences then it will mitigate negative biases and will allow open communication to redefine the ‘norm’.

For instant if you grow up in an area that your race and class is the predominate race and class then your children might not have a ton of friends that come from radically different backgrounds. So how does one teach their children about differences if they are not seeing it themselves? Also, for a child who is developing their self-esteem it is beneficial to have role models to identify with that tend to look like themselves or share a similar culture. I think a good tool to teach children is the use of books. I am happy that there seems to be a shift in children’s books in order to enhance children’s perspectives and ‘normalize’ differences. When I talk about books from now on, I will be referring to books that either parents read to their young children or that children ages 5-8 read themselves. Books have been breaking away from the cookie cutter family dynamic. The US Census Bureau in 2015 showed that over half of American children 5 and under are non-white yet only 8% of children’s books featured non-white characters up until 2015 (Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 2015) and that most authors are white. This does not necessarily mean that there are not more people of color and different backgrounds that are writing children’s books but that they just are not getting published. And, of those 8% of multicultural books published, Yoon, Simpson, and Haag reported in a study in 2010 that many of those books featured assimilation instead of the subject of the book actually celebrating the culture itself. This can create a misrepresentation of the cultures in our society and lead non-white children to feel othered. Also if children have access to books they connect with and like then that can foster a love of reading that can persist throughout their lifetime which is vital to their schooling and achievements later in life which can help bridge gaps in society. So, like I mentioned earlier it is not only beneficial to kids who are multiracial or cultural or come from different home lives, but it is also beneficial to expose all kids to diverse books. A study in 2004 by Banks showed that reading multicultural books can mitigate implicit biases by exposure to other races. Books like this can highlight differences to help find an appreciation but they can also highlight similarities to show that while someone on the outside might seem different there are other things that tie people together.

Within the last couple years, there have been more efforts for teachers to incorporate more diverse books and materials in the classroom which has flowed over to the publication of more children’s books that include diversity and celebrate differences. There was a surge in nonprofits like We Need Diverse Books that solely advocates for better literature for kids and crowdfunding efforts to help teachers buy these newer books. Not only are these books allowing children to read fun stories and narratives that include children of different races and ethnicities, but they are also including families who might have two moms or two dads to support the LGBTQ community. They are also highlighting people and children who might have certain physical and mental disabilities to combat ableism. Some cover different religions. While I was not able to find a current study with estimates of the shifting dynamics of published multicultural books, I feel as though there are definitely steps in the right direction being taken for children to be exposed to differences and similarities of all kinds.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #4 Access to Clean Water in the U.S.

Based on statistics from the United Nations, 844 million people do not have access to clean water around the world. Out of those affected, women and children suffer the most. Children are more susceptible to diseases they can get from contaminated water and females are often given the responsibility to fetch water for their families every day. Access to quick, clean water is a vital part of supporting communities and individuals around the world. Here are some “fast facts” about the current global water crisis that I got from the CDC (there are links to sources for each of the facts if you’re interested in more details).

  • Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source * 2
  • An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation (more than 35% of the world’s population) 13.
  • According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, regions with the lowest coverage of “improved” sanitation in 2006 were sub-Saharan Africa (31%), Southern Asia (33%) and Eastern Asia (65%) 2.
  • In 2006, 7 out of 10 people without access to improved sanitation were rural inhabitants 2.
  • According to the United Nations and UNICEF, one in five girls of primary-school age are not in school, compared to one in six boys. One factor accounting for this difference is the lack of sanitation facilities for girls reaching puberty

When thinking of communities that lack clean, safe water people in the U.S. most likely imagine a developing country where individuals have to walk long distances to retrieve water every day. However, the U.S., one of the world’s wealthiest countries, is also lacking in access to clean water – as millions of Americans lack vital access to this precious resource. There are a variety of reasons why Americans don’t have access to clean water from lead in the water lines, fecal contamination, and high utility bills.

In 2015, the U.S. joined around 200 other UN member countries in adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The goals have an overall goal of improving human life around the world. One of these goals focused on making sure all countries have a sustainable water management and sanitation system.  Below is a screenshot of the subsections of goal 6 which focuses on clean water.

The U.S. Census Bureau complied a report  titled, “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States” which identified six areas in the U.S. where access to clean water is especially behind. According to the report, at least 2 million people don’t have access to running water or a working flush toilet. The distribution of people who lack access to clean water is not even. According to the report, “people of color, low-income individuals living in rural areas, tribal communities, and immigrants are more likely to go without running water and basic indoor plumbing. Native Americans are 19 times more likely than any other group to have trouble accessing clean water”. There are many reasons for the differences in access including historical discrimination and decreases in federal funding for water infrastructure in certain regions.

Since 2000, Americans without access to adequate plumbing has decreased but many communities have not benefited from these improvements, or even if communities overall have made improvements individual access to clean water has decreased for people in those communities. A few communities in West Virginia have infrastructure that is gradually falling apart and a fleeing populace, which is leading to even fewer people with access to clean water. One of the communities water systems was built by a company that is no longer in business and doesn’t have the money to repair any of their pipes.  In another community, citizens are not connected to a water system – they collect water from natural sources of water around them. However, local bodies of water are not always safe because some communities have their sewer system pipes dump into streams which leads to water contamination and health issues. These communities have almost no hope of improving their water systems because they simply lack the funds to maintain or build a functional system.  One of the communities had so little resources that they had to stop funding their police department. If outside help is not provided these people will continue to suffer.

One article I found titled, “America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint. There’s No Relief in Sight” was especially upsetting. It starts off talking about a resident in Lowndes County, Alabama who lives with a puddle of sewage in her backyard because the county won’t build the infrastructure required to connect its citizens to wastewater-disposal lines. People have to live in filth that impacts their health. 34% of participants of a local study of the county were found to have hookworm. Asthma and heart issues are also common in the county. A town in South Carolina puts an untested chemical HaloSan in their residents drinking water, resulting in people developing skin issues.  A town in Kentucky is dealing with health impacts from toxic sludge with arsenic and mercury that infiltrated their water 20 years ago, leading to liver and kidney damage and higher risks of cancer. Citizens in the Navajo Nation drank water with uranium in it for years – even just showering in the water causes infections. One individual said that he hitchhiked to Flagstaff to sell his plasma so he had a way to pay for safe water. These are just a few examples of how desperate some people’s situations are in the U.S.. State and local governments have spent years cutting corners in some communities and have gotten away with it as they poison their citizens because poor minority communities don’t get attention in America.

So what can we do to help fix this situation?

Addressing this complex issue requires collaboration between multiple sectors.  According to a report from UNC, five major areas that can be focused on to increase clean water access are development of alliances and partnerships, new and expanded finance and governance models, targeted household assistance, addressing national data gaps on water and sanitation access, and lastly strategic project investment. Development of alliances and partnerships includes different organizations working together and developing a network of support for collaboration. New and expanded finance and governance models includes creating sustainable management structures and encouraging targeted financial assistance for certain areas of states that require more help developing their clean water system. Targeted household assistance includes primarily customer assistance programs that are suited to assisting customers pay bills and developing a system that can address plumbing issues. Addressing national data gaps on water and sanitation access includes collecting accurate and comprehensive data that would allow for proper support for communities based on their water access. Lastly, strategic project investment includes continued funding programs and smaller projects in communities with high needs.

Ultimately, many groups need to collaborate in order to address the issue of clean water access both in the U.S. and abroad because everyone should have the opportunity to drink and use water without fear of getting sick or having to sacrifice important aspects of their lives.



Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #4 – Coronavirus is affecting African Americans at a disproportionately high rate

Health disparity and inequity has been a concern in the United States, but the coronavirus pandemic has again shone a bright light on the existing health gap. The coronavirus has been described as the “great equalizer”, meaning that it affects everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, socioeconomic status etc.; however, recent data about the pandemic has shown that African Americans are at a higher risks of being infected or killed by the disease than other racial groups.

What are the statistics?

Where data are available (i.e. for about 3,300 of the 13,000 coronavirus death), 42 percent of recorded deaths in the U.S. are African-American according the Associated Press. Analysis of available data by the Washington Post reveals that the infections and death rates from coronavirus is three and six times, respectively, in counties where African Americans are in majority compared to those where white Americans are in majority.

For example, in Louisiana, 70% of the death in the state have been among African Americans who make up only 32% of the state’s population. The health disparity is similar in Chicago and Milwaukee County, where about 70% of recorded death from coronavirus are African Americans, even though they make up only 30% of the city’s and county’s population, respectively. This evidence indicates the need to pay attention to the racial/health disparity in the U.S.

Figure 1: African Americans by percentage of population and share of coronavirus deaths (Source: Washington Post).

Why are African Americans being affected at a higher rate?

Higher chance of being exposed to coronavirus: Coronavirus is highly infectious and for this reason health experts have recommended that people should keep good physical distance and self-isolate if they are sick from coronavirus disease. While this recommendation will protect a good number of the American population, people who do service or essential work, who live in neighborhoods with high population density, homeless shelters or prisons, or who regularly use public transit are at more risk of being infected by this infectious disease. Majority of people in these categories are African Americans putting them at a greater risk of being infected.

Many American work in service or essential industries, where they often cannot work from home. Report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that only 20% of African American workers are eligible to work from home compared with 30% of white American and about 40% of Asian American workers, making them more likely to be exposed to coronavirus.

A large percentage of African Americans also tend to live in places with high chances of exposure to coronavirus. A recent pew research found that African Americans are more likely to live in urban areas than suburban or rural areas. Also, the rate of homeownership among African American is only 44 percent compared with about 74 percent for white Americans. Because African American households earn lower incomes on the average than white households, they may forced to live in densely populated areas such as crowded inner-city apartments where they can be easily exposed to coronavirus infections. In addition, African Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness or go to prison than other racial groups, conditions and environments that prevent people from isolating from each other.

Higher incidence of underlying medical conditions: Based on available information, people with underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, diabetes, are at a higher risk of falling severely ill from coronavirus disease. African Americans are more likely to be affected by these underlying medical conditions. For example, the American Heart Association reported that high blood pressure is more prevalent among African Americans. The current rate is more than 40 percent of African Americans and this is among the highest rates in the world. Diabetes is also very prevalent among African Americans. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 12 percent of African Americans are affected by diabetes compared with less than 8 percent of white Americans. Some of these medical conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, are correlated with environmental pollution of which African Americans are more likely to be exposed to.

Access to health care: Racial inequities to access to health care such as “health care deserts”, inadequate health insurance, and fear of discrimination, increase the risk of developing underlying medical conditions that are known to make coronavirus disease more lethal. According to CNN, African Americans have lower rate of health insurance coverage compared to white Americans. “The access barriers facing uninsured people mean they are less likely to receive preventive care, are more likely to be hospitalized for conditions that could have been prevented, and are more likely to die in the hospital than those with insurance,” according to a report by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

African Americans are also more likely to be resident in medically underserved areas, according to The Guardian. In addition, African Americans experience bias in access to health care, a problem that is related to generations of discrimination in access to health care which has created fears and distrust between the black communities and the health-care systems. This long-term discrimination is now being manifested in the high rates of infections and death among African Americans from the coronavirus disease.

Considering how African Americans are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus disease, mitigation strategies should pay attention to the racial gap in access to health care. The federal government should release more data based on race and ethnicity about coronavirus testing, rate of infections, death and treatment outcome; this can help to ensure that African Americans have adequate access to testing and treatment, and that the government is able to develop mitigation strategies to protect them.


Levenson, E. (2020, April 7). Why black Americans are at a higher risk for coronavirus. Retrieved from

Coronavirus wreaks havoc in African American neighborhoods. (2020, April 7). Retrieved from

Thebault, R., B. A. Tran, and V. Williams (2020, April 7). The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate. Retrieved from

Gupta, S. (2020, April 10). Why African-Americans may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Retrieved from

Kenya, E (2020, April 8). ‘It’s a racial justice issue’: Black Americans are dying in greater numbers from Covid-19. Retrieved from

Stafford, K., M. Hoyer, and A. Morrison (2020, April 8). Outcry over racial data grows as virus slams black Americans. Retrieved from

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Amid Pandemic, African-Americans still doubt the government and medicine (Blog #4)

There are approximately 40 million blacks in America making up about 13% of the population. And yet, there is a higher percentage of deaths hat well exceeds the general population ratio in the Black/African American community. It comes as no surprise that Blacks/African-Americans are about 3-4 times more likely to succumb to the infamous COVID-19. The Washington Post states: “Majority black counties have three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as majority-white counties, according to the analysis.” It is also thought there are 4 main reasons for this reason. They are, higher rates of underlying health conditions, less access to care, black Americans hold a lot of ‘essential’ jobs, insufficient information, and housing disparities, but I would like to add something else and that is Black Americans mistrust in the medical system based on physical racial differences that still exist in medicine today. 


Historically rooted, longstanding inequalities make African-Americans less likely to be insured, and more likely to have existing health conditions and face racial bias that prevents them from getting proper treatment. Also, the mistrust towards the medical profession has been existing in the community for years. We have begun to witness an improvement in social justice including racial equality since our society has become more diverse, However, research has shown that this positive change still will not completely do away with the decades of suspicion formed over centuries. The skepticism is sometimes referred to as the “Tuskegee effect” — distrust linked to the U.S. government’s once-secret study of black men in Alabama who were left untreated for syphilis. Many Blacks believe the Tuskegee Experiment was just that, an experiment on poor blacks where Syphillis was injected into men, THIS IS NOT TRUE!  The men already had syphilis and were promised they would be treated and would receive free healthcare, which did not happen.  In the 1950s, doctors at the John Hopkins Hospital used cervical cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks, a black mother of five, to pioneer medical advances and research that continue globally today. Lacks, who died in 1951, never gave her consent and her family has never been compensated.

For years it has been said, “Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s.” “Black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s.”  and “Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than white people’s.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Web site notes, “Racial disparities persist. The risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is 3 to 4 times higher than those of white women,” it correctly identifies a glaring health problem facing Black women. Unfortunately, these are not beliefs that have been forgotten from the 19th-century. “This insensibility belongs peculiarly to the negroes. Dr. Moseley says, ‘they are void of sensibility to a surprising degree. . . . They bear surgical operations much better than white people, and what would be a cause of insupportable pain to a white man, a negro would almost disregard.

These notions have been recently reported by many medical students and residents as recently as 2016.  In fact, half of the trainees surveyed held one or more such false beliefs, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. I find it shocking that 40% of first- and second-year medical students endorsed the belief that “black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s.” In the 2016 study, for example, trainees who believed that black people are not as sensitive to pain as white people were less likely to treat black people’s pain appropriately. A 2019 study that asked subjects to identify pain expressed in photos found that white participants more readily recognized pain on white faces than on black faces. Although providers might like to believe that they do not harbor unconscious biases, research shows that they are just as likely as others to do so.



Most black Americans — nearly 60 percent — live in the South. States like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia are all headed by governors whose messaging on how to stay safe was often inconsistent with the guidelines of the federal government. A lack of early communication about the threat of COVID-19 and confusing messages that followed left an information vacuum in some black communities that allowed false rumors to fester that black people were immune to the disease. Some places ended up behind in taking measures to slow the spread. High levels of segregation in large urban counties lower the life expectancies of African-American residents but have little effect on the life expectancies of white residents, according to an analysis of the County Health Rankings.

Unfortunately, many blacks work at “essential jobs” and live paycheck to paycheck. Many blacks will attempt an at-home remedy and still got to work because that cannot afford it any other way. They are also less likely to go to the hospital because they cannot afford insurance or because of their pre-existing conditions, they weren’t allowed to have healthcare. This means they are less likely to be treated, their symptoms are more prevalent and they die at a higher rate than most whites.

Blacks are always leery of systems that do not benefit them. It is also difficult for some to trust when their doctor/physician does not look like them.  People are very leery of systems that have been disparaging towards them their whole life and all of a sudden you’re going to tell me you’re gonna run in and save me when you haven’t been trying to do that before is normally the thought process going on through most of the communities mind. Or that there are cures out there for most of these diseases, but because black people do not have the money/power they will not be able to get the cure. That is also slowly starting to change as more blacks are entering into the medical field.

The New York Times reported, “This disconnect allows scientists, doctors, and other medical providers — and those training to fill their positions in the future — to ignore their own complicity in health care inequality and gloss over the internalized racism and both conscious and unconscious bias that drives them to go against their very oath to do no harm.”

The Coronavirus will eventually end, but the racial disparities in healthcare will always be an issue in America.

Public health expert says African Americans are at greater risk of death from coronavirus

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Challenges of COVID-19, Non-Native English Speakers, the TOEFL and Inclusion; Blog #4

To set the stage for this blog post and the idea behind it, I will give you some background information involving two, non-native English speakers:

I was speaking to my friend, Maggie, who is a current graduate student where we both received our bachelor degrees from (GO K-STATE!) the other day and I can’t remember how we got on this topic but it was involving another graduate student in her department that she is good friends with. Maggie mentioned that this other graduate student is a non-native English speaker and he told her that he is having a hard time remembering and speaking English ever since the pandemic has forced people such as himself to stay and work from home. This made me think back to experiences within my own department at VT. It is common in Animal Science to have interns that come to work in research laboratories before starting a M.S. or Ph.D. program. For instance, I became close friends with a guy named Alvaro. He is from Brazil and was interning in a closely related lab and he shared a desk next to mine in the office, so I got to know him well. Eventually, Alvaro was able to return back to Brazil for the holidays in December. He was also working on studying for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) before he left with hopes of taking it once he returned. I remember him telling me how bad he felt his English was getting since being in Brazil and away from people who spoke English on a daily basis.

Now how this all relates to inclusion….

Due to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends to 1) avoid social gatherings in groups more than 10 people, 2) social distance by standing at least 6 feet apart, 3) avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits, and 4) practice good hygiene.

I bolded the two first parts of the CDC’s guidelines because they pertain the most to this blog discussion. Both of the non-native English speakers from above mentioned how hard it can be to retain and speak a non-native language when they are not exposed to it and do not use it on a daily basis. This is where I think the TOEFL (or any other English proficiency examination) and inclusion comes in.

Should all graduate schools across the country be making exceptions or exemptions related to these scenarios? I have never taken the TOEFL and know little about it, so unfortunately, I cannot provide the best feedback as to what steps I think the graduate school should be doing in this scenario. Although, I have a few suggestions that may be applicable and are discussed below this section. It is my understanding from discussions with Alvaro and a brief search on the VT grad school website that the TOEFL is based on a scoring system. If your score is above or at x, you pass; if your score is below y, you fail (with opportunities to retake the TOEFL).

I wonder if there is ‘wiggle room’ in those scores to where the graduate school could make their cutoff more lenient during this pandemic when social distancing and working from home is being enforced? Or maybe the graduate school could push deadlines for taking the TOEFL back further to sometime after we are able to go back to daily life so non-native English speakers can be around more and speak to more native speakers? Or perhaps the graduate school could provide more resources that can be accessed easily online for those currently studying for the TOEFL? If a student does not have access to the internet, perhaps the graduate school could come up with alternative means for how to disseminate those preparation and study materials out to those students. An alternative to internet would be that study materials could be sent via mail, although I know that too is not the most ideal or feasible.

I was able to find new guidance from the ETS website which hosts the TOEFL exams worldwide. Unfortunately, it mostly is only guidance to address changes as a result of the social distancing guideline put in place by the CDC as opposed to working with universities in regard to relaying study material. Nonetheless, on April 9th, it says that they have expanded the availability of the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test to everywhere that it is normally available with the exception of Mainland China and Iran. They went on to say that for Mainland China, they are working closely with NEEA to accommodate persons impacted by these test cancellations by adding additional test dates once regular testing resumes. However, for those with the ability to take the exam online, this online testing capability is made possible for using live remote proctors and artificial intelligence technology by ProctorU® to prevent cheating and maintaining integrity. It is worth noting that the online version of the TOEFL is identical in content, format, and “on-screen experience and scoring” that would be experienced if a person was to take the TOEFL at an in-person testing center. Additionally, they go on to mention that rescheduling fees are waived at the present time and test appointments in person are postponed. I also was able to find 3 links for free test prep.

I am sure this scenario has maybe never been thought of and has maybe never came across before in higher education since pandemics are so rare and even more rare has been such as extensive isolation enforcement from other people. However, as a people, we learn to adapt and overcome whatever struggles we may face. If you or anyone you know is facing difficulties associated with the TOEFL or any other English proficiency exam due to COVID-19, I would strongly encourage you to reach out to your respective graduate school. It is quite possible that graduate schools are unaware of this situation and the difficulty it presents to those preparing to take the TOEFL or other English proficiency tests.


Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog Post #4: The gap in women’s leadership positions is still exist!!

In my previous blog post, I discussed the pay gap as one of inequality issues between women and men that refers to the difference in wages and salaries between them. In this post I discuss women positions in higher education. White women and women of color in higher education experience discrimination across multiple dimensions, and it is well documented that academia itself is gendered (Morton, 2018). For example, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2020), women’s salaries are lower at all ranks and in all types of institutions. Women are also much less likely to be tenured (Morton, 2018) or promoted. Also, women are less likely to be full professors (NCES, 2020).

Although there has been a slight change in the number of women in leadership positions, still the growth towards equity is slow. It is believed that the presence of females in higher education positions can have extreme impact on the institution and the scope of knowledge.

First of all, according to NCES, women earn more degrees than men. For the year of 2016–2017, women earned more than half of bachelor’s degrees (57.3%), master’s degrees (59.4%), and doctorate degrees (53.3%). While women have earned more degrees than men, they are less likely to hold high-ranking academic positions.

According to NCES, in 2017, the 1.5 million faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 53% were full time and 47 % were part time. Faculty include professors, associate professors, assistant professors, instructors, lecturers, assisting professors, adjunct professors, and interim professors. 41% were White males; 35% were White females; 6% were Asian/Pacific Islander males; 5% were Asian/Pacific Islander females; and 3% each were Black males, Black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females. Those who were American Indian/Alaska Native and those who were of Two or more races each made up 1% or less of full-time faculty. (see the figure below)


Also, 30% of college presidents are women while about 56.5% of college students in the U.S. are women (Samsel, 2017).

In 2018, according to Department of Education (2018), the percentage of female Full Professors represented 27% of white women, 3% Asian/Pacific Islander women, 2% black women, 1% Latinas, and less than 1% of full professors reported more than one race. Also, the percentage of female Assistant Professor represented 38% white women, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander women, 4% black women, 3% Latinas, and again, less than 1% of Assistant Professors claimed more than one race (Department of Education, 2018).

Even though, the percentages of female in different positions in 2018 has been increased, women are less than men to achieve tenure among tenured faculty at four-year institutions, women held just 22.7% non-tenure-track positions, compared to 17.3% of men faculty.

It is clear that women are more likely to be in lower-ranking academic positions especially women of color and women from different races are more underrepresented in academia. The numbers mentioned above are sufficient indicators of lack of diversity among women and men which means that white women and women of color struggle to attain the tenured and the rank of full professor. I was surprised for the low involvement of women in color in higher academic administration, despite the ever-growing number of students of color. Consequently, not considering the issue of inequality can indicate that there is less opportunity for women to pursue these positions and thus discourage them from making an impact.

I found a research article that exploring the issue indicated inequality in higher education leadership positions among different genders. The article written by Blithe and Elliott (2019). The authors aimed in their study to examine gender inequality in the academy and women experiences in workplace. This study draws on stress process theory to identify stressors and supports for academic women. Through analysis of focus group data, the results revealed that women in academia continue to experience extreme workplace hostilities micro-aggressions, work- life conflict and that these stressors vary by rank. Also, they found low levels of institutional support. So, they also discussed some strategies from the participants of successful supports that may improve equity in the higher education. The study concluded with a discussion of how higher education institutions can implement some approaches for white women and women of color by reducing existing stressors and increasing supports for them. According to Blithe and Elliott (2019), the suggested strategies include research about gender inequality, (2) mentoring, (3) communication, (4) training, (5) research support, (6) university policies, and (7) hiring.

(1) The research: some topics could be discussed in future research such as observing faculty meetings, productivity, teaching loads, research support funds, letters for annual evaluations and promotion, and teaching evaluations.

(2) mentoring: forming a ‘Women’s Faculty Network’ that can connect women to mentors.

(3) communication: if a university creates the Women’s Faculty Network, it could be included a social media and newsletter that could promote, spotlight faculty, announce awards, publications, etc.

(4) training: training programs related to Safe Zone or Ally training for LBTQI+ faculty, creating male advocates, and to learn about gendered communication.

(5) research support: such as support for conferences, especially for mothers taking children to conferences, specific grants and awards for gender research.

(6) university policies: included leaves of absence, same sex partner benefits, work-life policies (like flex time), wellness policies for disabilities, face time expectations.

(7) hiring: targeted hires of women at higher ranks.

Actually, I certainly think these strategies are very helpful. Something came to mind when I read this article related to finding balance between work and family. While there is no lack of enthusiasm and efforts from female faculty to perform in academia, some of these women may get demotivated and discouraged because of the rigorous requirements to perform especially with tenure position. Also, insufficient maternity leaves, no considerations for female employees with children, and unsupportive environments may lead them to not take up such academic positions from the start. Thus, I think providing support to a diverse workforce will ensure retention of diverse faculty members. I hope would be that higher education institutions would provide equitable resources for recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse faculty members.

Thank you!!


Morton, S. (2018). Understanding gendered negotiations in the academic dual-career hiring process. Sociological Perspectives, 61(5), 748-765.

Blithe, S.J. & Elliott, M. (2019). Gender inequality in the academy: Micro-aggressions, work-life conflict, and academic rank. Journal of Gender Studies, 1-14.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #4 Life as A Woman

A few months ago, I went for an annual gynecological check up with my male doctor. He said that I need to focus on losing weight. He also told me that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (surprise!) and that weight loss would be “damn near impossible because of it”, but I should do it anyways – this was his only guidance.

A few weeks ago, my husband told me that he was planning to tell his supervisor that he was planning to quit his position. In an instant, I realized that once again, I would be the sole breadwinner for my husband and daughter.

Due to COVID-19, my mother-in-law, who lives with us, had to stop working at the local catering business, and I like that, I have to financially support her as well.

Two weeks ago, I ran into a former colleague of mine, an older woman who now works for another University. She said it was rough for the first few months in her new job, because she initially had a woman supervisor, and “women just aren’t as good as men”. I am a woman supervisor.

Two weeks ago, my husband and mother-in-law declared that because we are all at home, we need to spend time with Sofia on teaching her letters, reading, and physical activity. The only one with an 8 – 5 job (me), has been forced to design and implement those activities throughout the day.

Last week I had to get some professional photos taken for a newsletter being sent out from my academic department. I was off-handedly told I actually look pretty when I put in the effort of putting on make-up.

Last night as I stayed up past midnight trying to get work and schoolwork done, I told my husband, who was going to bed early, that I needed him to wake up early the next day to watch our daughter so I could get some sleep. He joked back that I shouldn’t count on him to wake up in the morning – and he didn’t.

I am not telling these stories to rag on the people I mentioned. Instead, I want to make a point.

As a woman, I am supposed to give 100% to my health and fitness; I am supposed to give 100% to my looks; I am supposed to give 100% to getting my professional work done and being successful; I am supposed to give 100% to being a good supervisor; I am supposed to give 100% to being a good student; I am supposed to give 100% to being a good housewife who cooks, cleans, and does the laundry; I am supposed to give 100% to being a good daughter and daughter-in-law; I am supposed to give 100% to being a good wife; and I am supposed to give 100% to being a loving and engaging mother.

And these are just a few of the items I could come up with based on the off-handed comments that people have made in just the last month! I think of a pie chart when I write this, how we breakdown the level of effort that should be put into different areas – 25% here, 10% here, etc until we total 100% and “make a whole pie”. As I write up these things, I realize I don’t get one pie to divide up my time, I have to manage 10 stupid pies because society and (if I’m honest with myself) I place these burdens on my shoulder to carry.

There are two songs in pop music right now that seem to highlight how I feel, which tells me that others are feeling the same way as well. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato are making some points that I (and I think many women) can truly relate to.

Demi Lovato’s song, “I Love Me” references looking at how society expects her to be and how she feels she does not achieve that and sabotages herself. One of my favorite lines from the song, “I’m my own worst critic/ Talk a whole lot of sh*t / But I’m a ten out of ten/ Even when I forget”.

Taylor Swift’s song, “The Man” discusses how she feels she would be treated if she were not a woman. The video even jokingly shows men receiving accolades for doing very little. My favorite lyrics from this song, “They’d say I hustled/ Put in the work/ They wouldn’t shake their heads/ And question how much of this I deserve/ What I was wearing, if I was rude/ Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.”

Now, I want to end this blog with two final notes. To the men of the class, I truly believe you face many struggles in life as well, perhaps not in the same manner, but I know it exists. While I rant about the frustrations of life as a woman, I want you to know that I see you, and recognize everyone faces difficulty in life no matter their gender.

To the minority women in this class, I want to say that I am completely aware that my ranting does not compare to the perspectives and experiences you face – I see you hold 20 stupid pie charts to my 10. However, I wanted to share that, at least in a few areas, our struggles are similar.

Signing off now – to go make everyone’s lunch 😊

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog 4 – Education Difference Between Countries

When I was taking Women and Gender studies as a freshman, I remembered watching a documentary about countries which treated women unfairly. Part of it was very young girls being forced into brothels, but the other section of this series was about schooling and how some countries made it especially hard for female students to attend school. I wanted to do some more digging, but I couldn’t find the same documentary, so instead I am going to present some other findings about differences in education between countries and between males and females in some countries.

I found a BBC news article ( which investigated the 10 toughest countries for girls’ education. These rankings were determined based on several factors, such as the proportion of girls without a primary school or secondary school, proportion of girls who did not complete primary or secondary school, the average number of years’ girls attend school, female illiteracy rates, etc. They do give a disclaimer that, for some countries, there was a lack of data, so there may be countries deserving of this list which were not able to be added. The top 10 were as follows:

  1. South Sudan – chosen because almost 75% of girls do not make it to primary schools. Also, a lot of war and violence has plagued this country.
  2. Central African Republic – the teacher to student ratio is 1:80
  3. Niger – of the women aged 15-24, only 17% of them can read
  4. Afghanistan – they have a large gender gap
  5. Chad – social and economic barrier to girls and women getting an education
  6. Mali – 35% of girls finish primary school
  7. Guinea – women over 25 spent less than a year, on average, in education
  8. Burkina Faso – 1% of females finish secondary school
  9. Liberia – 2/3 of primary-aged students are not in school
  10. Ethiopia – 2/5 females married prior to their 18th birthday

This article is from 2017, so there may have been advances made by these countries to strengthen their school systems and to help the women have a better chance at an education. Also, from this article, the UN claimed that, for promises regarding education to be maintained, they would need 69 million teachers to be hired across the globe. I am wondering how much advancement toward this initiative has been made in the last three years (just more something to ponder, I am moving this train along to the next stop).

So, I am not going to talk about a school system that is doing things right. Finland is a country in Europe which has one of the most outstanding school systems overall ( The reason their schooling is said to work so well is that the teachers have a “Whatever it takes” attitude. They also are employing only those from the top 10% of the graduates to earn their master’s degree in education. These teachers can, for example, take students in as their “private student” so to speak, and works with them to figure out their strengths and weaknesses as a student. Then, they tackle whatever subjects the student is not as proficient in.   They have the freedom to try a method and, if it fails, they can try another one until they find something that works with their students. About 30% of Finland’s students receive this “special help” or private tutoring during the first 9 years of schooling. Also, more than half of Finland’s students are immigrants. Which means they are all on different learning levels and may not be at the same advantage when they begin school. This contributes to the reasoning behind almost 1/3 of their students needing some extra help. Their changes in the education system stemmed from a plan to recover from economic downfall. Once this change was implemented, they saw changes from the PISA done in 2000 (more on this test in a minute, but it’s a global assessment given to 15 year olds to look at learning abilities), and the results of this test showed that Finland’s students were among some of the best readers worldwide. in 2003, they had one of the leading math scores. In 2006, they came 1/57 in science. In 2009, they were:

Second in science

Third in reading

Sixth in math

When comparing 57+ countries to one another, this is an outstanding feat to accomplish. This is no just one school they are looking at, it is every school in this country, which is outstanding that the country is teaching their students so successfully.

Something to note about Finland’s schooling, at least something I found unusual compared to schooling in the US, is that there are no standardized exams, aside from one that you take when you are in your last year of school. They avoid posting class rankings, they don’t create competition between students or schools, they just teach their students to the best of their abilities. They work hard to give each student an opportunity to learn and grow as much as their peers. Their schools are also publicly funded by government agencies staffed with educators, but businesspeople. This helps to foster a positive learning environment without competition and stress about numbers from the very top of the chain all the way down to the educators in the schools.

Now, I said I was going to get back to this PISA business, so here we go. ( The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), is a 2-hour exam which tests students, age 15, across the globe three subjects: math, science, and reading. Currently, it includes 72 countries. This is how the PISA defines their three dimensions:

Science literacy is defined as the ability to engage with science related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen. A scientifically literate person is willing to engage in reasoned discourse about science and technology, which requires the competencies to explain phenomena scientifically, evaluate and design scientific enquiry, and interpret data and evidence scientifically.

Reading literacy is defined as students’ ability to understand, use, reflect on and engage with written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, develop one’s knowledge and potential, and participate in society.

Mathematical literacy is defined as students’ capacity to formulate, employ and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts. It includes reasoning mathematically and using mathematical concepts, procedures, facts and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomena. It assists individuals in recognizing the role that mathematics plays in the world and to make the well-founded judgements and decisions needed by constructive, engaged and reflective citizens.”

These graphs represent the most recent graphical data of the countries which participate in this standardized exam. Again, this is based on the average score of 15-year-old students in each country. As you can see, there are regions which score higher on average than other countries or regions. Some countries seem to have scores for certain sections, but not others, which I thought was interesting. It was also surprising to me to see that we scored higher on average on the reading section compared to math and science. Canada seems to score consistently high on most things as do many of the countries in Europe. I just found these graphs to be insightful and interesting to compare and contract with one another. This website also allows you to scroll through the years and see the progression countries go through and can see as countries got added on.

Overall, I think there are many advances the United States could make within our education system, but clearly, we are not off to a horrible start based on these PISA results. The US has been in the “middle of the pack” so to speak for a while now and I think we need to start taking notes on what other countries educators are doing to gain insight and be more successful.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment