Gender bias in hiring practices

Hello! In our 5th meeting we discussed gender biases in hiring practices. Below are the suggested literature and the meeting minutes.

Suggested literature

* Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students by Moss-Racusin et al. 2012:

* Time-to-Credit Gender Inequities of First-Year PhD Students in the Biological Sciences by Feldon et al. 2017:

A lengthy report in Swedish from 2006 on the recruitment processes and equality at Uppsala University is also available, see

News on the UU webpage report that Children at Swedish “gender-neutral” preschools are less likely to gender-stereotype,6,10,16&typ=artikel&lang=en

Meeting minutes

Presentation of the reading paper

John and Jennifer Case – experimental study

  • equal merits, undergraduate students
  • the only difference was the name of the student
  • each faculty was only evaluated once in the study
  • faculty evaluator of ‘student’ who wants to become a PhD student
    • hiring as a lab technician
    • what feedback would you give them?
  • question – would you hire this student, what kind of salary would you give them, how competent do you think they are?
  • John (male student) was found to be more competent, more able, and the faculty would be more likely to mentor him. Faculty would also provide him a higher salary.
  • Made faculty score on the ‘modern sexism scale’
    • If faculty got a high score, then they are less aware of sexism against women.
  • Sexism scale didn’t affect the competence of male students, but folks with a higher modern sexism scale rank gave female students lower competence scores.
  • Found no difference between male and female faculty
  • No affect of faculty age, tenure status

Second paper

  • male PhD students were more likely to receive publication authorship based on research time put in.
  • female PhD perception on the investment of effort necessary (i.e. time in the lab) to succeed at graduate school.
  • Note that women often have lower self-esteem, but actually, this isn’t causing women to self select out of graduate school.
  • This self esteem is also scaled by number of hours
  • It’s very important that we understand how we differently enculture men and women early on in their career (i.e. first year of graduate school).

Gender blind hiring practices

  • passed the paper around

Uppsala University hiring practices

  • this is an active area of debate here
  • this study particularly looks at the process of evaluators providing information
  • people are trying to be as objective as possible, and there are external evaluators brought in to help with this positions (for higher level positions).
  • Adjectives (‘broad’, ‘depth’, etc) were not used as often
  • ‘only’ vs ‘already’ for women and men
  • need to be highly aware about the language being used
  • evaluator statements also comment on what is missing from someone’s CV.
  • The lack of experience is often commented about women, but not about men
  • This committee has now made a guide book for the hiring committees, with quite a lot commented on about equal opportunity

Uppsala University 2010 report

58% of senior men are professors (vs. senior lectures)

25% of senior women are professors (vs. senior lectures)

Get into pairs – two things that everyone wants to say.

  • recruitment process for a PhD position – they had explicitly stated that they wanted to hire a male candidate (because there were so few male students in the department at the time).
    • But, they decided that they wanted a female student (although this can’t be stated in the advertisement, but males can be encouraged), but they didn’t need to justify this decision to anyone.
    • In Sweden, tend to encourage the ‘under-represented gender’ to apply. All else being equal between two candidates, the under-represented gender should be hired.
    • What are the benefits of having 50/50 in any department? Or do we have this encouragement because we know that there are barriers to entry (i.e. discrimination).
    • 50/50 is quite strict.
    • PhD positions are lower influential positions –make sure that departments are not biasing PhD positions towards one gender, and biases higher influential positions towards the other gender.
  • how to have reference letters – should they be free written, or should the referees be forced to answer specific questions with 1-5 scale
    • could this help to cut down on gender bias in letters
    • some people might still send in free letters
  • reference letters are very often not shown to evaluators
  • how do we evaluate ourselves based on both our gender and our personality? i.e. modesty, self esteem, culture
  • For us, we see the bias exists. So, for some folks, its difficult to see the problem.
    • This bias is more obvious in other cultures/countries
    • There’s a disconnect between knowing a problem exists, and actually seeing the problem.
    • Women are worried that they are selected for positions because they’re women, instead of because of their merits. This is seen as a strike against quote systems
  • evaluation committees – it would be really helpful if the recommendations are written in a numerical form – make this more quantitative, and leave out the qualifying terms.
  • Maybe recommendation letters are supposed to be a little subjective. But they still need to be free of gender bias
    • We can argue whether or not this is a good thing
  • Reference letters for junior positions can be one of the only ways to evaluate people – they don’t have such a big CV yet.
  • Need to have a way to evaluate the competence by reading between the lines a little bit
  • Jennifer and John paper – positive aspect: the departments that were more aware were less biased. This means that being more aware can make you less biased. YES THESE MEETINGS MATTER AND HELP WITH SUCH THINGS.
    • Maybe there should be seminars about the problems before starting the hiring process at all
    • Study where they compared a department where there had been an intervention study, with those that had not happened.
  • Self esteem and probability of being on the publication. This might not just be a gender thing, this might be a personality thing. The level of self esteem in the study was not related to whether or not someone was on the paper
    • Maybe people with a high self esteem over estimate how many hours they worked, and vice versa.
  • Swedish daycares – gender neutral education study. Seems to cut down already against gender bias.
  • Self esteem, it’s more culturally acceptable for men to have (and show) high self esteem than for women to do so. This also has a big cultural bias. There is intersectionality here.
  • Would more training in how to write reference letters take away some of the gender bias in them? But maybe this would shift the problem to the candidates.

  • The blind reviews is a fix for a manifestation of a problem that comes much earlier (i.e. children!). The blind hiring system is a band-aid for a societal problem.

– maybe gender blind is not the way to go, if we accept based on paper 1) that women are disproportionally affected as undergraduates and 2) as PhD students, then we can’t expect women to look as good on paper, because of their previous experiences.

  • Based on some personal experience, the poor applications (i.e. those that aren’t qualified) are disproportionally sent in by men. This would swap a an attempt to make a gender based quota. How else to do a quota?

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