Study Examines How an Academic Department’s Gender Composition Impacts Teacher Evaluations

A new study led by Oriana Aragón, an assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business at the University of Cincinnati, finds that professors in the gender minority of university academic departments tend to receive lower scores in their performance evaluations because of gender bias. However, women were disproportionately impacted because women were more often in the gender minority.

Dr. Aragón and her fellow researchers examined more than 100,000 evaluations from 4,700 courses at Clemson University in South Carolina, where she used to teach. Nearly three quarters of all academic departments at the university were dominated by male faculty.

The authors found that “in departments with gender disparities students generally evaluated their educators consistent with department gender majority and minority roles. We found a statistically significant interaction between department gender composition, educator gender, and course level. In departments with gender disparities, those in the gender majority were evaluated more positively than those in the gender minority when they taught upper-level courses. In contrast, those in the gender minority tended to be evaluated more positively than those in the gender majority when they taught lower-level courses.”

The researchers recommend that due to bias in teacher evaluations, “those on tenure and promotion committees should be aware of these biases within teaching evaluations. In departments with high gender disparities, promotion and hiring committees should be trained to understand how their department’s gender composition may have influenced student evaluations so that they might make proper adjustments. These biases also can be addressed at the university level, with policies that require evidence other than semester-end teaching evaluations. University interventions could include the provision of bias-corrected scores that account for these systematic differences for tenure and promotion committees. University-wide training for department leaders that oversee the promotion of men and women could also ameliorate these effects.”

Dr. Aragón is a graduate of California State University, San Marcos, where she majored in psychology. She holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Yale University.

The full study, “Gender Bias in Teaching Evaluations: The Causal Role of Department Gender Composition,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be accessed here.


Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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