Women Face Bias When Seeking Mentors Among University Faculty

A new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and New York University found that university faculty members were less likely to respond to requests from prospective women students than male students who were seeking information on research opportunities before applying to doctoral programs. The researchers contacted more than 6,500 professors at 259 research institutions by email asking for meetings about research opportunities. The names of the fictional students sending the requests had names that could easily be identified as either male or female.

The results showed that faculty members were more likely to ignore the requests for information from prospective women students than was the case for men. Even women faculty members were more likely to respond to men than women. The disparity in response rates was particularly high in the sciences and business.

Katherine L. Milkman,  the James G. Campbell Jr. assistant professor of operations and information management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study, stated, “The very worst in terms of bias is business academia. We see a 25-percentage-point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males versus women and minorities.”

Dr. Milkman is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University. She holds a Ph.S. in information technology and management from Harvard University.

The study, “What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations,” can be downloaded here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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