Women Scientists’ Academic-Hiring Advantage is Unwelcome News for Some: Part 1


Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams
Cornell University

For a long time, two seemingly inconsistent phenomena coexisted, but few seemed to notice: First, the oft-reported experiments demonstrating sexist hiring practices, showing that when comparing hypothetical applicants for academic jobs, men and women prefer male candidates over identically-qualified women. Second, in contrast, hiring audits of who actually gets hired reveal that women are preferred over men; women apply less often for academic jobs but when they do, they are more likely to be hired. For example, during 2002-2004, 20% of applicants in mathematics were women, but 32% of those offered the job were women.

Figure 1 shows the fraction of female applicants offered tenure-track positions at 89 U.S. research universities (from NRC report, 2009, p. 8, Findings 3-10, 3-13, adapted by D. Miller).

We reviewed a number of hiring audits (see here), showing that women were hired at the same or higher rate than men. This inconsistency between the experimental data and actual hiring data is glaring–and it led us to wonder whether women applicants are bypassed for men, or if the reverse is closer to the truth.

Some believe there is no inconsistency: They suggest women applying for professorial jobs may be stronger than their male competitors by dint of surviving a sexist winnowing process during which they have less psychological access to female mentors and role models. Thus, they conclude that women who later apply for professorships are superior to males who did not confront bias: “Perhaps the women who survive training in a field where they have few mentors and surmount barriers most men may have little knowledge of, might actually be better. At least we cannot assume they aren’t.” (link)

Many commentators attempt to reconcile the female advantage in actual hiring with the position —> Read More