Women Scientists’ Academic-Hiring Advantage Is Unwelcome News for Some: Part 2

Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams
Cornell University

Part 1 of this blog described surprising new findings from our research showing faculty prefer women over identically-qualified men for an assistant professorship (link). This challenges the common belief that women face bias during hiring. Part 2 addresses criticisms of our study.

Experimental procedure differed from actual academic hiring

In four (of five) experiments we asked faculty to evaluate three hypothetical finalists for a starting professorship in their department. They were told their colleagues read these candidates’ CVs and recommendation letters and attended their talks, ultimately rating two finalists equally strong and the third slightly weaker. Faculty were given their colleagues’ narrative evaluations of these finalists and 10-point scale ratings. Some said our experiments did not resemble hiring decisions because faculty were not given CVs and did not meet finalists and attend their talks (link). Such criticism misses the point of the experiments.

Our goal was to conduct a controlled experiment to reveal attitudes about gender. This task would not be possible using real applicants giving real talks, since so many variables would be confounded. When past research using hypothetical candidates revealed anti-female bias in hiring of assistant professors in the female-dominated field of psychology, or in hiring of staff lab managers, the criticism that faculty did not have meetings with the applicants was never raised. Perhaps this was because these former studies presented conclusions critics found more personally appealing?

Some claim faculty in real-world hiring situations may not prefer women and in fact may show a bias against them. However, data on who is actually hired for U.S. STEM assistant professorships shows clearly that women are hired at a higher rate than men. We are not referring to experiments–we are referring to real hires of real people; women are —> Read More