The results of an experiment conducted by Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci of Cornell University are therefore intriguing. As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Williams and Dr Ceci have searched for sex bias in one of the most important steps on the scientific career path, recruitment to a so-called tenure-track position. If the successful candidate does well in such a post it can lead to a job for life. And the two researchers did indeed find bias—against men.
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As the chart shows, professors of biology, engineering and psychology all chose female candidates over equally qualified male ones, and did so by an overwhelming margin (as high as three to one in the case of psychology). Moreover, they made this choice regardless of whether they, themselves, were men or women. The sole exception to this pattern was economics. In this discipline male professors showed a slight preference for men, though females had a strong one for women.
When Dr Williams and Dr Ceci carried out further experiments, looking in more detail, they found that the pattern they had discovered held up regardless of whether or not hypothetical candidates were married, had children or had taken a period of parental leave. These factors, often cited as damaging to women’s academic careers, seemed to weigh little with the professors in question.