Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

Geraldine L. Richmond, who holds an endowed chair in chemistry at the University of Oregon. She argues “many top-notch science departments have ‘toxic atmospheres’ that suffocate women’s enthusiasm for their work and steer them away from research careers. But women are also rejecting elite research universities for other reasons, like the fear that they will not have enough time for their families” (Wilson, 2004).

Kulis and Miller-Loessi (1992) offered a different rationale: higher prestige institutions seek to attract high-powered researchers. In the past, those would more likely be men. The authors noted women have been located outside informal prestige networks, making it harder for women to be recognized and recruited.

Steinpreis et al. (1999) simulated a hiring situation by sending 238 male and female academic psychologists one of four randomly selected versions of curriculum vitae (CV) along with a questionnaire about the qualifications of the candidate. The CV was drawn from a real-life, female scientist. Some versions of the CV contained a traditional male name; other versions, a traditional female name. The authors found “both male and female academicians were significantly more likely to hire a potential male colleague than an equally qualified potential female colleague. Furthermore, both male and female participants were more likely to positively evaluate the research, teaching, and service contributions of a male job applicant than a female job applicant with an identical record” (p. 522).

Several other studies reach the similar conclusion that female candidates may be at a disadvantage in both academic and nonacademic labor markets:

  • Cole et al. (2004) randomly sent business school students’ resumes to 40 employers, who were asked to rate the resumes on a number of criteria. They found male reviewers rated male applicants as having slightly more work experiences than female applicants (not statistically significant), while female reviewers rated male applicants as possessing significantly more work experience.

  • Studies suggest women’s professional work is discounted more so than for men. For example, a study of the outcomes of the peer-review system of the Swedish Medical Research Council for postdoctoral fellowships found the success rate for female applicants was less than half that of male applicants (Wenneras and Wold, 1997).

The situation applies not just to female versus male names as triggers, but also to female versus male appearance. In the music world, very few women were playing with top orchestras in the 1970s. Then orchestras changed how the audition occurred: the musician was hidden behind a screen and the stage was carpeted. The number of women successfully auditioning rose significantly (Koretz, 1997; Goldin and Rouse, 2000). Women seem to get rated harder than men do, both by men and women. However, one study did not find a disparity. In a review of editors, reviewers, and authors regarding manuscripts submitted to JAMA in 1991, the

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement