STEM and Stereotypes

STEM and Stereotypes

GENDER BIAS AMONG hiring managers in STEM fields is alive and well, according to research by Ernesto Reuben of Columbia Business School in New York City; Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois; and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Illinois.

In one experiment, the researchers asked nearly 200 participants, both male and female, to play the role of hiring managers. These participants first completed computer-based behavioral testing to determine how deeply they held stereotypes about the ability of men and women to succeed in math and science. Then, they were asked to "hire" one of 150 other participants to perform a mathematical task—correctly adding up as many two-digit numbers as possible in four minutes. The job candidates already had completed a test of their aptitude in the task. In some cases, candidates revealed their scores to the hiring managers; in others, they did not.

When the hiring managers had no information other than the candidates’ gender, they all were twice as likely to hire a man as a woman. And when candidates were able to reveal their scores? Women were still only half as likely to be hired. In both cases, bias often led individuals to hire someone whose score was lower than that of another candidate.

This kind of outcome leads not only to a less diverse workforce but also to a potentially less capable one, says Reuben. "Leaving your personal experiences out of the process will likely land you the best candidate. Otherwise, you are hurting your company."

"How Stereotypes Impair Women’s Careers in Science" was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.