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Women in STEM have an advantage over men in hiring decisions, researchers found

Two decades of studies show low gender bias in academic STEM

Despite common claims of sexism in academic STEM, social scientists who surveyed 20 years of scientific literature on the subject found little evidence of bias against women.

Their paper examined “research regarding biases that tenure-track women [professors] have faced” in science, technology, engineering or math, Inside Higher Ed reported last week. Authors examined academic studies published from 2000 to 2020.

They found women “are advantaged over men” when it comes to hiring, according to the abstract of the paper, published recently in the academic journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

Their findings also showed “tenure-track women are at parity with tenure-track men in three domains (grant funding, journal acceptances, and recommendation letters).”

“We synthesized the vast, contradictory scholarly literature on gender bias in academic science from 2000 to 2020,” wrote psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University and economist Shulamit Kahn of Boston University.

Additionally, the male-female salary gap, according to the report, “was concerning but smaller than the oft-quoted statistic that women in STEM fields make 82 cents for every dollar that men earn,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

“On average, the gap was 9 cents on the dollar, although the gap shrank to less than 4 cents when controlling for experience, type of institution and productivity, among other factors.”

“We’re getting really close to an equitable landscape,” said Wendy Williams, one of the study authors, told Inside Higher Ed. “We’ve come 90 percent of the way, and so what stands between us and that is not an insurmountable task anymore. It’s really important for young women in college who are considering going to grad school and women in grad school who are considering becoming professors.”

Ceci “said the report shows that institutions are putting money where it’s not needed, such as the trainings aimed at rooting out bias on hiring committees,” according to the Inside Higher Ed article. “He and Williams questioned if the trainings are needed given that women are receiving an advantage in the hiring process.”

“The paper was ‘an adversarial collaboration,'” — which meant that the scholars had different views on the subject when they began research, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The abstract ended by urging colleagues to act with clarity regarding perceived bias.

“Given the substantial resources directed toward reducing gender bias in academic science, it is imperative to develop a clear understanding of when and where such efforts are justified,” it stated.

MORE: College math a ‘white, cisheteropatriarchal space’: Vanderbilt professor says at major conference

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