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A small advantage for women

Women are as likely as men to be selected for professorships when they apply and do not experience discrimination even in fields where they are very much underrepresented. This is shown in a recently published study by WZB researchers Heike Solga and Alessandra Rusconi together with Nicolai Netz (German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)). The researchers investigated whether female and male professors are prone to gender bias and prefer female or male applicants. The result: for new appointments to full professorships, highly qualified female applicants are just as likely to be invited as comparably qualified men. There is a small advantage for women among less qualified applicants, in this case women are more likely to be invited than comparably qualified men.

Recent evidence suggest that women are more likely to be appointed to professorships when they apply, which happens less often. This advantage for women may be due in part to the widely promoted gender-equality policy of having a substantial female quota in selection committees. To date, however, research has rarely considered whether male and female committee members evaluate applicants for professorships differently. Heike Solga, Director of the Skill Formation and Labor Markets Unit, Alessandra Rusconi, Scientific Research Coordinator of this unit, and Nicolai Netz (Head of the Junior Research Group Mobility of the Highly Skilled at the DZHW) address this research gap with a factorial survey experiment with German university professors from different fields (mathematics, physics, economics, political and social science, German studies).

In this experiment, professors were asked to evaluate the qualification of hypothetical applicants for full professorships and the likelihood of inviting these applicants for a job interview. The results show: Female applicants have a small advantage both in terms of perceived qualification and likelihood of being invited—with no differences between the male and female professors assessing them. However, this female advantage in invitation does not apply to highly qualified applicants but only to applicants with low and mediocre perceived qualifications—again, there is no difference between male and female respondents.

16./3/23, kes 


The study “Professors’ gender biases in assessing applicants for professorships” by Heike Solga, Alessandra Rusconi and Nicolai Netz has been published in European Sociological Review, advance access, 27.02.2023,