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"Reducing Barriers to Women's Contributions" Talk Featured at TEDx Event

Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012


Steve Eaton

Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

Utah State University

Phone: 435-797-8640



LOGAN, UT – Two thirds of the illiterate people in the world are women—500 million women, to be exact.

Building on that stark fact, Utah State University professor Ronda Callister, who teaches in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, spoke at the first ever TEDx event held on the USU campus. Professor Callister, Ph.D., used her requisite “18 minutes of innovative ideas” to describe the powerful, world-changing effects that could result from enabling women to become full contributors to human wellbeing and progress.  

The “x” in TEDxUSU indicates that the event was independently organized, not directed by the well-known 28-year-old TED nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Still, the local event required presenters to go through a very competitive process to be selected to speak. Callister, whose work focuses on gender, conflict and anger in organizations, was one of only eight presenters. Her presentation may be viewed at the website (

Callister pointed out that society constructs barriers to the contributions of women. Those barriers can include:

“Implicit bias”—attitudes often held by both men and women, in this case favoring men. For example, Callister cited research showing that upon reviewing resumes listing the exact same qualifications, both men and women will judge the resumes with men’s names on them to reflect “better qualified” candidates.

Hostile work environments. For example, research shows that women in university positions who encounter hostile environments leave at twice the rate of men, saying, in effect, “I felt isolated in the department.”

“Ideal worker assumptions.” For example, in research many employers affirm that the ideal worker “has a wife at home to take care of everything else, so the man can devote his life to work,” she said.

Perhaps Callister’s most significant research project to date was a six-year, $3 million National Science Foundation grant “to improve the recruitment and advancement of women faculty in the sciences and engineering,” for which she was the principal investigator. She and her team addressed the challenges women faculty described to them by “implementing policies, educating hiring committees about the impact of implicit bias, and disseminating seed grants for career transitions and cross-disciplinary research that included women.” The work resulted in documented significant improvements in both recruitment and advancement of women over six years at Utah State, from 2003-2009.

“Today women are receiving advanced degrees at rates similar to men,” Callister said in her TEDx talk, “and yet in accounting, for example, while 54 percent of accounting degrees go to women only 18 percent of women make it to the top levels.” Women who are full professors, she pointed out in another example, are significantly less likely than men to be married and are much more likely to say they had fewer children than they wanted.

She concluded, “We have been able to document the continued barriers to women’s recruitment, advancement and retention. Each of you can make a difference!”

About Utah State University

Utah State University is a land-grant, public research university, classified as such with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 29,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Founded in 1888 and located in Logan, USU offers students 168 undergraduate degrees and 143 graduate degrees from which to choose.

About the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

Utah State University’s Huntsman School of Business seeks to inspire and equip students to become innovative, ethical leaders with refined analytical skills that will help them understand and succeed in the global marketplace. The Huntsman School of Business is one of eight colleges at USU, located in northern Utah. More information on the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business may be found on the web at (


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