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Favorable Odds for Women in STEM Hiring, Study Finds

Based on their survey of nearly 900 tenure-track faculty members in the US, a pair of researchers from Cornell University says that women are now preferentially chosen over men for tenure-track positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics departments.

As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci sent fictional assistant professorship job applications, each with identical professional qualifications though varying personal details, to nearly 900 tenure-track faculty members in biology, engineering, economics, and psychology, and asked them to rank the applicants.

In all four fields, Williams and Ceci report that applications from women were preferred two-to-one over those from men with matched family situations — single, married, divorced, and with or without children — by both male and female reviewer, with the exception of male economists, who had no gender preference. Additionally, the pair says female reviewers preferred divorced mothers to married fathers, while male reviewers preferred mothers who took parental leave to those who did not.

Based on this, they conclude "it is a propitious time for women launching careers in academic science."

At CNN, Williams and Ceci argue that "[w]hile women may encounter sexism before and during graduate training and after becoming professors, the only sexism they face in the hiring process is bias in their favor."

However, Joan Williams from the University of California Hastings College of Law tells Insider Higher Ed that the conclusions of the Cornell study were flawed.

"There are many studies that focus only on hiring, and that's a totally legitimate thing to do," Joan Williams adds. "The problem is the way they've interpreted their conclusion, which is far too broad, because this effect in hiring isn't really the problem with gender bias in STEM."