Women Scientists’ Academic-Hiring Advantage Is Unwelcome News for Some: Part 3

Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams
Cornell University

In Part 3 of this series, we respond to more comments about our April 13, 2015 article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (link)

We studied the wrong question

The bane of every researcher is the critic who says a study is actually about some question it was never designed to answer — then proceeds to demean the study for failing to answer the question it never asked. Critics chided us for not asking different questions than the one we did ask: Instead of studying hiring bias, they argued, we should have examined bias in tenure, remuneration, bullying, chilly climate, and persistence. (link and link)

We agree that bias independent of hiring is important. In 2014, we and our colleagues published a 47,000-word monograph, describing hundreds of analyses examining claims of gender bias both before and after hiring–in pay, promotion, persistence, and job satisfaction, in eight STEM fields. (link)

In the current research, however, we studied entry-level hiring which, when coupled with this prior work, illuminates why women are underrepresented in certain fields of science but not others. We wrote: “Although the point of entry into the professoriate is just one step in female faculty’s journey at which gender bias can occur, it is an extremely important one.” (link) We believe hiring is a very reasonable career point to address in view of our work on other aspects of bias.

Despite the claim that hiring is biased against women, we found no evidence of this for fields in which women are most underrepresented — engineering, computer science, physics, mathematics, and economics. After our findings were published, a chorus of critics asserted that everyone already knew this and that bias against women occurs —> Read More