Research Suggests That Academic Hiring Bias Against Women in STEM Fields Has Abated

cornellIt is widely believed that gender discrimination in the hiring process plays a role in the low numbers of women faculty in STEM disciplines at colleges and universities. This undoubtedly was the case in the past. But a new study by faculty members at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, finds that women are widely preferred by existing faculty for open positions as assistant professors in STEM disciplines.

Researchers conducted controlled experiments with 873 tenure-track faculty at 371 colleges and universities in all 50 states. Faculty members were given narratives or full resumes of potential candidates for assistant professorships in biology, engineering, psychology, and economics. Qualifications for male and female candidates were equal. But existing faculty members showed a 2-to-1 preference for women candidates in biology, engineering, and psychology. Economic professors did not show a preference for either gender.

“Efforts to combat formerly widespread sexism in hiring appear to have succeeded,” the authors write. “Our data suggest it is an auspicious time to be a talented woman launching a STEM tenure-track academic career, contrary to findings from earlier investigations alleging bias, none of which examined faculty hiring bias against female applicants in the disciplines in which women are underrepresented. Our research suggests that the mechanism resulting in women’s underrepresentation today may lie more on the supply side, in women’s decisions not to apply, than on the demand side, in anti-female bias in hiring.”

The study, “National Hiring Experiments Reveal 2:1 Faculty Preference for Women on STEM Tenure Track,” was published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

A video of the authors discussing the study can be viewed below.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/StudySTEM Fields


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