A new study revealed a noteworthy uptick in women receiving assistant professorships in traditionally male-dominated fields, though not everyone is convinced by the findings.

Two Cornell Department of Human Development Professors, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci, recently co-authored a survey examining preferences for assistant professorships based on gender. The professors performed a variety of experiments to test preferences. Some of these experiments included emailing evaluators applications of three candidates and asking evaluators to rank candidates first, second or third based on their preferences.

The candidates were surveyed in the fields of engineering, biology, psychology and economics. The study revealed that women were preferred in a 2:1 ratio when comparing lifestyles such as single, married or divorced to men in the fields of engineering, biology and psychology. Men and women were given equal preference in economics.

These results came as a shock for Williams and the people working on the experiments.

“We were in fact very surprised as the results came in,” says Williams. “We hoped to find parity for women and men — we did not expect a female advantage, but experiment after experiment revealed this pro-female attitude as did the multiple validations.”

While Williams has expressed excitement over the survey’s results, not all female professors believe the survey indicates increased women involvement in these fields.

One cynic is Abigail Stewart, a University of Michigan psychology professor and Director of the ADVANCE program, which enhances work environments with particular attention to underrepresented groups like women in STEM.

“Not only was I surprised by the results of the study, I believe — and many of my colleagues do too — that the study suffers from many technical problems that cast serious doubt on the results.”

For Stuart, technical difficulties references the differences between the methods used in other experiments that have found sexism in STEM fields.


Read the full article "Women preferred over men for STEM asst. professorships" at USA Today.