Lois James, an assistant professor in the Washington State University College of Nursing, was honored on Oct. 4 as a Woman of Achievement by the YWCA of Spokane.
She was one of nine honorees recognized at an awards luncheon at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane. Her award was in the category of Science, Technology and Environment.
James is a national leader in the field of implicit bias and law enforcement. In the past year, her work on the subject was recognized in National Geographic magazine, and was highlighted in a feature-length documentary film called “Bias.” Her work has significantly advanced what is known about how a suspect’s race influences police officers during deadly encounters.
She has a second focus on sleep research and the relationship between sleep, health and performance among nurses, military personnel, police officers and top-tier athletes. She’s leading a $1 million, federally funded study on nurses’ work shifts that could influence shift scheduling policies nationally.
James said that early in her career, older academics advised her to choose one major area of research – either sleep or bias.
“I found it difficult to pick one,” she said recently. “I like them equally because I think they’re equally important for society.”
James said it’s critically important that more women enter the fields of science and technology, especially given the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence. There are many examples of diversity strengthening scientific discovery. As artificial intelligence, or machine learning, becomes more widespread, a lack of diversity among its developers will create built-in bias, she said.
“If coders are white males, AI is going to be biased,” she said. “It’s the way it is, but not the way it has to be or should be.”
James has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and master’s and doctorate degrees in criminal justice from WSU. She’s the daughter of two world-renowned sailors – her mother was the first woman to sail solo around the world via Cape Horn – but horses are her passion. She’s married to Stephen James, an assistant research professor at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at WSU, and the couple has one daughter.
Watch the video of Lois James that was shown at the YWCA luncheon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4eVvlOi6Cg