A Spotlight on Gender Bias

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Image: Manuel Martín Vicente/Flickr CC

Many colleges and universities want to attract a more diverse work force and foster greater inclusivity in their faculty and administrative ranks, but don't know how. The Chronicle wants to help, so we've recast the weekly On Hiring newsletter and we're sharing stories, news, and data from around the web aimed at helping hiring managers and recruiters make better, more informed decisions about diversity hiring at their institutions and across higher education generally. Here are some highlights from this week's newsletter. If you'd like to receive the new and improved On Hiring and Diversity newsletter, sign up here.

A Day Without Women

Experts are still tallying the economic costs of yesterday’s “A Day Without a Woman” strike, but economists at the Center for American Progress estimated earlier this week that if every working woman in America walked out for one day, the U.S. gross domestic product would take a $21-billion hit. That figure doesn’t even count women’s unpaid labor contributions, which aren’t factored into the GDP but would make the sum significantly higher, they said. According to their analysis, women’s annual share of our nation’s GDP amounts to $7.6 trillion. That’s greater than the $5.2-trillion GDP of Japan, which has the world’s third largest economy, they note. The economists also dissected women’s daily paid labor contributions by state. They point out that California and Texas alone would face losses of nearly $2.8 billion and $1.8 billion respectively if working women in those states sat out for a day.

Black Employees Are More Likely to Be Promoted When They’re Referred by Another Employee

Relying on employees to refer new hires might be the path of least resistance, but it could hurt your diversity efforts. If your organization has a mostly white, male work force, hiring via networks is likely to net more of the same, since people tend to know and recommend others like themselves — i.e., people of the same race, gender, and socioeconomic status, write Jennifer Merluzzi, an assistant professor of organizations and strategy at Tulane University, and Adina Sterling, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, in an article in the Harvard Business Review. Yet while referrals tend to handicap women and minorities at the hiring stage, new research by the article’s authors shows that black workers hired by referrals are more likely to advance once they’re on the inside. White men still get more promotions than everyone else generally, but black workers who were brought in by referral “increased their number of promotions (by a factor of 1.2), compared to black employees without a referral,” Ms. Merluzzi and Ms. Sterling note in the article. The findings have implications for hirers, who may be moving away from referral-based hiring in the hope of increasing diversity, the authors write. Their study shows that “leveraging networks to bring in employees may in fact have lasting positive effects for some members of traditionally disadvantaged groups,” who can capitalize on these ties once hired.

A Start-Up Seeks to Shrink the Gender Gap by Letting Employees Control Their Schedules

Could letting workers decide when and where they work be the secret to increasing equality in the workplace? Research suggests that greater flexibility might go a ways toward wiping out the gender gap, since women, who still do the bulk of parenting at home, tend to be disproportionately disadvantaged when employers expect workers to put in long hours and lots of face time, an article in The New York Times notes. Even when employers offer flex time, workers may be reluctant to take it, lest they be branded as less serious or passed over for promotions or pay raises, the Times writes. Enter Werk, a startup that aims to fix all that by pre-negotiating for better schedules with employers before jobs are listed. All the jobs posted on Werk, “including some from Facebook, Uber and Samsung, are highly skilled jobs that offer some sort of control over the time and place of work,” the article explains. “People can apply to jobs that let them work away from the office all the time or some of the time, and at hours other than 9-to-5, part time or with minimal travel.” It’s an idea that might help some women stay in the work force. Unfortunately, the platform is of little use to workers hunting for teaching or service jobs that call for set hours, the article notes. It’s also aimed at women, which makes sense but limits its impact, since without buy-in from men, societal attitudes are unlikely to change, the article says. It’s a start, but I doubt flexibility is the fix we’ve been waiting for — it’s already a feature of many faculty jobs, and, sadly, bias in academia still exists.

On a related note …

According to a new book reviewed in the Daily Beast, gender equality in the workplace begins with gender equality at home. Until women demand more from their male partners, and men actually pick up the slack, professional parity will remain out of reach, it says.

Short Takes

Bridging the Cultural Divide

Last week, I noted that companies are re-thinking their diversity efforts in the wake of Trump’s electoral victory. Now some colleges and professors are, too, and they’re reaching out to white working-class people who may have felt excluded by previous initiatives, an article in The Chronicle reports. (For Chronicle subscribers.)

Do Good-Looking People Really Make More Money?

A new study suggests that it pays to be pretty — provided you’re smart, healthy, and agreeable, too — but it may pay more to be ugly, an article in Forbes reports.

Gender Bias in Medicine

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital note that while the share of women in cardiology rose to 12 percent in 2013 from 5 percent in 1996, you’d still be hard pressed to find a female cardiologist, much less one that’s a full professor, ScienceDaily reports. 

Meanwhile … a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that female residents training to be emergency-medical specialists are evaluated more harshly than their male counterparts because of systemic implicit bias in the field, an article in The Inquirer notes.

Female Earth Scientists Protest Gender Stereotypes — With Facial Hair

A quirky new documentary takes aim at preconceived views of what scientists look like by depicting female paleontologists donning fake beards while discussing their careers. A staff writer at Science sat down with the filmmaker Lexi Marsh about The Bearded Lady Project, which premiered on March 3 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Have a suggestion for the newsletter or a tip or story idea to share? Send it to me at gabriela.montell@chronicle. com or @GabrielaMontell.

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