Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track (PNAS)

The results described below suggest that faculty evaluators of STEM job applicants tend to favor women over men. Certainly, most departments receive strong incentives and signals from above to increase numbers of women and underrepresented minorities among their faculty. Women could still face obstacles at other points in their careers, such as during promotion or merit reviews, or in the competition for resources such as grant funding or lab space. Nevertheless, I think gender discrimination has decreased significantly during my adult life.

This article is also discussed in Nature. See also STEM, Gender, and Leaky Pipelines and Gender differences in preferences, choices, and outcomes. Earlier blog posts citing research by Ceci and Williams.
National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track (PNAS)

Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci

National randomized experiments and validation studies were conducted on 873 tenure-track faculty (439 male, 434 female) from biology, engineering, economics, and psychology at 371 universities/colleges from 50 US states and the District of Columbia. In the main experiment, 363 faculty members evaluated narrative summaries describing hypothetical female and male applicants for tenure-track assistant professorships who shared the same lifestyle (e.g., single without children, married with children). Applicants' profiles were systematically varied to disguise identically rated scholarship; profiles were counterbalanced by gender across faculty to enable between-faculty comparisons of hiring preferences for identically qualified women versus men. Results revealed a 2:1 preference for women by faculty of both genders across both math-intensive and non–math-intensive fields, with the single exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference. Results were replicated using weighted analyses to control for national sample characteristics. In follow-up experiments, 144 faculty evaluated competing applicants with differing lifestyles (e.g., divorced mother vs. married father), and 204 faculty compared same-gender candidates with children, but differing in whether they took 1-y-parental leaves in graduate school. Women preferred divorced mothers to married fathers; men preferred mothers who took leaves to mothers who did not. In two validation studies, 35 engineering faculty provided rankings using full curricula vitae instead of narratives, and 127 faculty rated one applicant rather than choosing from a mixed-gender group; the same preference for women was shown by faculty of both genders. These results suggest it is a propitious time for women launching careers in academic science. Messages to the contrary may discourage women from applying for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) tenure-track assistant professorships.


Gail Margolis said...

There are lots of studies that point to bias in the opposite direction, it's puzzling that you'd cherry-pick this one to highlight on your blog.

steve hsu said...

I know the authors of this paper and they sent it to me last night. Please post links to the other studies -- I'm all for balance.

Gail Margolis said...

Ok I wasn't expecting to be asked to provide specific examples, but I'll find some and post the links when I have time.

RMB said...

Just to be clear, the study pertains to hiring in the academic areas of biology, engineering, economics, and psychology, is that right? It's important to note, I think, that its claims do not extend more broadly.

MUltan said...

So they find a strong bias against men and call it a good thing.

"Women preferred divorced mothers to married fathers; men preferred mothers who took leaves to mothers who did not."
So the women promote antisocial actions by women, and discriminate against prosocial actions by the men, while men do the opposite. In other words, when given a choice, women have a tendency to either act as moral imbeciles or outright evil; when given a choice, men choose good over bad. Clearly giving women discretion over hiring is a stupid, society-rotting idea - looking at the results of the policies and prejudices of the 85%+ female HR departments in corporate America showed that already, but this study gives some hard data, which may make a difference, at least in men's decision-making.

VoxTerriblis said...

Evaluation of candidates often includes *documented* proposed weighting based based on RCG& (race, class, gender, etc.). Hiring committee members see the preference ratios along with the position descriptions. Admittedly, personal biases may corrupt much of the HR idealism. But qualified female candidates in STEM are highly recruited, not discouraged.

RealityIsComplicated said...

This seems a lot like fuzzy thinking, or perhaps driving via looking in the rear view mirror. Undergrad numbers are skewing very strongly in favor of women and have been for some time now. The term STEM seems to obfuscate things more than help. A more thoughtful goal would be to strongly push for inclusiveness of women in physics / chemistry and engineering fields. The inclusion of math and (all) "science" in this doesn't seem to logically follow. The Economist covered this in the recent past, extracts below.
"The feminisation of higher education was so gradual that for a long time it passed unremarked. According to Stephan Vincent-Lancrin of the OECD, when in 2008 it published a report pointing out just how far it had gone, people “couldn’t believe it”.

Women who go to university are more likely than their male peers to graduate, and typically get better grades. But men and women tend to study different subjects, with many women choosing courses in education, health, arts and the humanities, whereas men take up computing, engineering and the exact sciences. In mathematics women are drawing level; in the life sciences, social sciences, business and law they have moved ahead."

(It's a good article; it also discusses second level considerations like observed wage disparities reflecting women not being as involved in higher paying fields like engineering. There's also a bit of an interesting twist to Stephen's frequent lament of Harvard, etc. using obscure admissions processes to restrict, say, Asian enrollment, to ensure campus 'balance.'

"Meanwhile several [countries], including America, Britain and parts of Scandinavia, have 50% more women than men on campus. Numbers in many of America’s elite private colleges are more evenly balanced. It is widely believed that their opaque admissions criteria are relaxed for men")

Rastus Odinga-Odinga said...

So, Prof Hsu, what are you doing at your institution to prevent this kind of disgraceful discrimination?

Cornelius said...

This is not at all surprising. Discrimination against men is rampant in academia and government.

The studies examining private sector employment find that the playing field is more level. After controlling for qualifications, there is no statistically significant difference between male and female compensation.

Richard Seiter said...

Assuming what you say is correct, the really pernicious thing about this push concerning discrimination is that when one sector (academia and government) hires women preferentially it means other sectors (private) have fewer women available to hire. Thus, the private sector looks like (by prevalence) it is discriminating against women even if it is not.

HomoSapiens said...

I skimmed through the study but did not find information on whether the raters thought it was for real. In other words, if they thought it was a study (even if the goal was different than what the raters thought), I am not sure if they would behave as they normally would

HomoSapiens said...

Assuming you see divorce as anti-social and supporting of parental leave as "pro-social", whatever that means. Of course, knowing that shouldering a bigger portion of child care and other family responsibility is one factor that may work to women's disadvantage, a cynic would say that women prefer others who are dedicated to their careers and would be willing to put hours in and men prefer women who would be less dedicated, and hence, less of a competition for them.

See? When you assume the conclusion, you can prove anything.

efalken said...

Given the PR, marketing, and regulatory perks to having various minorities (gender, race, etc.), as a practical matter it would be stupid not to give a plus group factor orthogonal to measurables.

outside_observer said...

Ceci and Williams make it clear that (to their surprise) there were no relevant studies on the exact question they were pursuing, namely whether there was bias in hiring for academic positions in STEM fields.

See the following link:


I find this glaring omission in the literature surprising as well. The cynic in me says that such studies likely were conducted, but the results weren't congenial to the political motivations of the researchers.

steve hsu said...

Thanks! Added to main post.

outside_observer said...

One thing that may be distinctive to the positions this new study focuses on is that affirmative action obviously applies to the hiring considerations.

I have generally found the previous studies I've looked at rather unconvincing as to their application in many important settings because the positions were not obviously positions where anyone would try to correct for biases, or promote one sex over the other. My question was always, but how about positions where affirmative action is an explicit desideratum? How much correction for biases, or introduction of an opposite bias, would take place?

This study gives us a pretty clear picture of how that plays out.

botti said...

*** Certainly, most departments receive strong incentives and signals from above to increase numbers of women and underrepresented minorities among their faculty.***

They do seem to be quite open about this. I understand Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams became a full time cartoonist because he was told his prospects of promotion at his bank were remote as they were looking to promote people from other groups.

"College presidents and deans must be strong enough to put their foot down and suspend a faculty search if the pool does not include qualified minority candidates, said Hubie Jones, dean emeritus of BU’s School of Social Work. In the early ’80s, Jones caused an uproar by suspending the hiring of white professors in his school until administrators tapped more minority faculty, even when it meant turning away national stars. At one point, he said, he posted the photos of every faculty member in the school along the main corridor."


" Yale launched a faculty diversity initiative in 2006 that set targets for hiring more women and minorities to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences by June 2013. The initiative called for the University to hire at least 30 new professors from minority backgrounds and at least 30 female professors specifically in the sciences ­­and economics — fields in which women have historically been under-represented. But though Yale hired an additional 56 minority faculty and 30 women between the start of the initiative and November 2011, the University has retained only 22 and 18 of those new professors because of faculty departures and remains about one-third behind its numerical targets, said Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development."


5371 said...

Not entirely unrelated was the process by which last year's Fields medalists were chosen.

RMB said...

Here is a great discussion about possible reasons why the results of various studies might differ:


Anonymous said...

"Not entirely unrelated was the process by which last year's Fields medalists were chosen."

Care to elaborate, since all the winners did seem to have a track record of significant accomplishments.

Titus Brown said...

Some pretty significant concerns about the study: www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/opinions/williams-ceci-women-in-science/.

HomoSapiens said...

Posting a link to a CNN article by the same authors of the study is not likely to reveal any "significant concerns about the study"

MUltan said...

Yes, I have done some reasoning outside that particular comment. Since that reasoning is outside the comment, it is not in the comment. I hope that clears things up for you.

The difference between your supposition and my prior is that yours does not fit the evidence and is internally contradictory.
(I'll type slowly so you can follow along.)

The quote from the article abstract was: "'Women preferred divorced mothers to married fathers; men preferred mothers who took leaves to mothers who did not.'"

Your hypothesis: "women prefer others who are dedicated to their careers and would be willing to put hours in and men prefer women who would be less dedicated"

Divorced mothers will have a higher proportion of their time spent on childcare than married women or married men. So women preferring divorced mothers cannot be preferring those who will put in more hours of academic work.

The rest of your comment seems to be content-free reflexive male-bashing of the usual duckspeak type.

outside_observer said...

A great deal of the criticism of this study misses an important point, namely, the exact motivation for pursuing this study at all: Ceci and Williams were responding to a criticism of studies which made it clear that, from an actuarial point of view, women fared better in getting hired. One such statistic is the obvious one, that women are hired in higher proportion than their numbers in the hiring pool. The rejoinder to this apparent preference for women was that the women who got through the winnowing process in grad school were quite possibly just stronger candidates than the men, and that is why they were hired in higher numbers. This study was designed to probe that issue. The fact that women with identical credentials were preferred over men is pretty powerful evidence, in this context, that the actuarial findings were consistent with actual preferences. To say that the experiment was flawed because it dealt only with hypothetical candidates and jobs and not real ones becomes pretty unconvincing when one considers that in the real job market women also are chosen over men in disproportionate numbers. One would have to say both that women are, in fact, stronger candidates, implying that faculty don't prefer them over equally qualified men in real hiring contexts, and that, nonetheless, faculty DO prefer them in hypothetical situations. By far the most sensible explanation is the most economical one: faculty prefer women both in the hypothetical case and the real case; their preferences don't swing wildly from the actual to the hypothetical.

Cornelius said...

I suspect if we performed an analogous study in the private sector, we would get similar results. There are hiring preferences for women and non-Asian minorities. We might have to control for qualifications to reveal those preferences. But once they're on the job, qualifications win out and determine compensation. It's just easier to get your foot in the door as a woman or minority.

Titus Brown said...

Whoops, copy-pasta! Fixed, thanks.

Titus Brown said...

A, ahem, slightly blunter critique of the study:


(*) In a paper just published in PNAS, Cornell professors W. M. Williams and S. J. Ceci have demonstrated conclusively that the process that all university departments use to hire new faculty is completely unrelated to the actual process they modeled in their study of fictitious faculty searches.


outside_observer said...

What kind of idiocy is this "critique"?

Of course the study didn't simulate all of the various activities involved in an actual search -- such a simulation is impossible to perform for a fictitious case. How many of these same critics disparaged the previous studies that showed a preference for males in hiring a lab manager simply based on a written material they knew was fictitious? The rank disingenuousness of these critics is appalling.

Titus Brown said...

Well, it's satire, so there's that. Here's one that's more sober, with references and all:


Your response questions the hypocrisy of the critics, while ignoring the question of whether or not the critiques were valid. Any thoughts on the latter point?

outside_observer said...

Yeah some "satire", when the exact case the author is trying to make convincing is the case he is exaggerating for "satiric" effect. It's rather more typical of real satire to exaggerate the case one is actually inveighing against. Calling it "satire" in this case serves only the purpose of deflecting the obvious criticisms of the point it's obviously trying to make.

And of course the study wasn't perfect, not least because perfection here isn't possible: investigators can't really produce a fictional and perfectly matched candidates who will go through all the hoops real candidates do.

But why would we believe that real candidates will fare differently, except that for some people it's pretty to think so?

As I argued elsewhere in this thread, one must remember the context of this study, which makes such an ad hoc explanation especially implausible.

MUltan said...

References. Well, I'm convinced! How could anyone doubt a self-described intersectional feminist sociologist social justice blogger whose personal and professional life is dominated by concerns of "otherness"? Also a non-profit racketeer, diversity consultant, and common scold who cites only "research" that supports her racist, sexist agenda and only criticizes methodology that does not support her vendetta against competence, reason, morals, aesthetics, and civilization. (It doesn't help that she's a aging adjunct professor with extra victimization points at Swinburne, a university that barely makes the top 10 in Australia.)

MUltan said...

The US Federal sentencing disparities for comparable cases are about six times as great between men and women as they are between Blacks and Whites, if I recall correctly.

Titus Brown said...

Well, it's always good to be reminded why discussing things with anonymous commenters on blogs is a waste of time! I'll go see if you make any good sense elsewhere on the comment threads...

HomoSapiens said...

I am always reminded of the same but hope always springs eternal

HomoSapiens said...

"(I'll type slowly so you can follow along.)"
Please type more slowly so you thoughts can catch up to your typing.

You seem to think that I was communicating my beliefs. I was just trying to illustrate that your sweeping conclusions could be wrong if you take other interpretations of the facts.

"Divorced mothers will have a higher proportion of their time spent on childcare than married women or married me" ...Not if they are "antisocial", as you seem to think.

BTW, you ignore the second half of the possible interpretation ("....men prefer women who would be less dedicated") I brought up.

HomoSapiens said...

Yale has over 1000 tenure track faculty and over 4000 faculty of all ranks, according to their website. http://oir.yale.edu/yale-factsheet

If they were trying to hire 30 minority faculty, it will be a drop in the bucket.

Also, just because they were hired does not mean they stay. Departments have funny ways of pushing out those that don't fit

MUltan said...

You seem to be under the impression that you are making some kind of logical argument. It might look like one if you stand back and squint, but not only don't you understand the meanings of "anti-social" and "pro-social" (against or for social comity, respectively), you engage in motivated rationalization: you start with the "progressive" (conformist) conclusions you want to reach, reflexively rationalize them with superficially argument-like strings of words (Orwell's "duckspeak"), and can't tell the difference between that and valid reasoning even when it is clearly pointed out . You then engage in projection, attributing your fault to me.

Since you say you don't support your own argument" "You seem to think that I was communicating my beliefs. I was just trying to illustrate that your sweeping conclusions could be wrong...", and I have shown that the part of it regarding women's motivations does not make sense, and pointed out that the part on men's motivations is a motivated and unsupported assertion against men as a group, then we can conclude that you haven't actually gone any distance toward actually refuting what I said.

It is certainly true that my sweeping conclusions could be wrong, you just haven't begun to make a case that they are in fact wrong.
If all you really wanted was to show that my conclusions could be wrong rather than that they are in fact wrong, I suggest that you declare victory and move on.

HomoSapiens said...

" I suggest that you declare victory and move on"
Since you have done that, I will do same.

yulva said...

If you are graduating and unable to get a good job....

Documents obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show that an immigration program described by CIS as "obscure, almost secret" is costing American workers hundreds of thousands of jobs. The program has also exempt billions of dollars from taxation towards Social Security and Medicare.

According to the documents, obtained by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the program has denied American workers more than 430,000 jobs, 64,000 of which are in STEM fields, between 2009-2013 and has removed $4 billion from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.


namae nanka said...

Even the great Wenneras and Wold paper is in there!

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