Eliminating Names From Research Proposals Boosts Women’s Acceptance Rates

Dr. Johnson

A new study by Stefanie Johnson of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Jessica F. Kirk at the University of Memphis finds that when the gender of applicants is hidden from panels making selections for scientific research, gender bias disappears.

Dr. Kirk

The authors’ research analyzed 15,545 applications for research time on the Hubble Space Telescope from 2001 to 2018. Before 2014, full names were used on all applications. This often revealed the gender of the researchers requesting time on the telescope. In 2014, the first names of the researchers were removed from the cover of the proposals. In 2018, all information regarding the person making the proposal was removed and the decision-makers were instructed only to consider the science in the proposal.

The results show that before 2014, men were 5 percent more likely than women to have their proposals approved. Between 2014 and 2018 when applicants first names were removed from the covers of the proposals, men were 3 percent more likely to have their projects approved. After 2018, when all gender identifying formation was removed, women were 1 percent more likely than men to have their research approved.

Before 2014, 0nly 18 percent of research applications from women were approved. After 2018, when all gender identifying information was excluded from research proposals, 30 percent of women had their research proposals approved.

Stefanie K. Johnson is an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. She is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College in California and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Jessica F. Kirk is an assistant professor of management at the Fogelman College of Business & Economics at the University of Memphis. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri, where she majored in mechanical engineering. She holds an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. in management from the University of Colorado.

The paper “Dual-Anonymization Yields Promising Results for Reducing Gender Bias: A Naturalistic Field Experiment of Applications for Hubble Space Telescope Time,” was published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. It may be accessed here. The authors also discuss their research in an article for the Harvard Business Review. That article may be found here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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