Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hiring in STEM and gender bias

Article: New research proves gender bias extraordinarily prevalent in science, technology, engineering and math fields
     Written by Ernesto Reuben, assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School.

Obligatory acknowledgment: Yes, men vastly outnumber women in the STEM fields.

Real title #1: Researcher cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Claims "bias extraordinarily prevalent."

With everyone from the federal government to corporate America working to encourage more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, you would think the doors would be wide open to women of all backgrounds. A new study shows that this could not be further from the truth and that gender bias among hiring managers in STEM fields is extraordinarily prevalent.
This is the experiment:
To test the biases of hiring managers, Reuben and his research partners designed an experiment in which about 150 participants, in the role of job candidates, would be hired to perform a math assignment: correctly summing as many sets of four two-digit numbers as possible over a period of four minutes. Previous studies have shown that this type of arithmetic task is performed equally well by men and women. All of the candidates completed the task and were given their scores. In some versions of the experiment, the candidates were allowed to tell the managers how well they had performed, while in others their test results were not revealed.

Close to 200 other subjects, in the role of hiring managers, decided whether to hire a particular candidate to perform the task. The hiring managers also completed computer-based behavioral testing that indicated the degree to which they held stereotypes about the performance of men and women in science and math.
Do you see the flaw?

The author claims that bias exists in hiring in the real world. But they do not use real world hiring managers. They used "subjects," probably college students. And since the research was done at a business school, the subjects may not have even been STEM students. Potentially, the "hiring managers" might not even know many STEM women.

Real title #2: Researcher finds bias against women STEM workers in college students at elite university.

Actually, they did find bias at all. What they found was that the "hiring managers" had stereotypes that they acted on. "Bias" implies that the "hiring managers" were acting out of dislike or deliberate unfairness. So...

Real title #3: Researcher finds that college students at elite university have stereotypes about female STEM workers.

But real world "hiring managers" are trained NOT to be biased. They are legally forced to be unbiased. A real "hiring manager" behaving this way would lose his/her job. And the human resource director he/she might report to would not/could not tolerate it.

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