Lacking a Voice: Bias against Women as Academic Speakers at Top Universities
Nittrouer, Christine Lynn
Master of Arts
Across a wide range of settings, women still face disparities in the workplace relative to men, even in seemingly equitable professions like academia (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, & Handelsman, 2012). In the current research, I conduct five studies focusing on academia in more detail and specifically examining how gatekeeping or gender biases might influence the research presentations that are heard throughout top academic institutions. Specifically, Study 1 uses archival data to examine colloquia speakers who gave talks in six academic disciplines within the top 50 U.S. colleges and universities. Results shows that women are significantly less likely to be colloquia speakers than are men, even after taking into account the differential number of men and women who get their PhDs and hold academic positions. To eliminate alternative explanations (e.g., women are declining invitations more often than are men), Study 2 is conducted (with a faculty sample). Results reveal no gender preferences. Then, Study 3 (with a convenience sample) and Study 4 (with a faculty sample) examine individuals’ ratings of manipulated “potential speakers.” Results from Study 3 demonstrate a preference for women when they talk about communal topics and a denigration of women when they talk about agentic topics. Results from Study 4 indicate no preference for women or men. Finally, Study 5 examines whether such differences arise from individual or group decisions, and are more likely when women are present in gatekeeping roles (help decide speakers). As a whole, this research strongly shows that those who invite and schedule speakers are gatekeepers and can create (or avoid) gender bias, and I discuss strategies to make them more aware and vigilant about ensuring more equal distributions of speakers by gender.