gender bias in b-schools

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management issued an internal report that found that the school is “inhospitable to women faculty.” The report contains both comparative data and anecdotal evidence suggesting that women faculty have experienced impediments to advancement.

Women made up 20% of tenure-track faculty at Anderson and 14.3% of those with tenure in the 2012-2013 academic year, including Dr. Olian, according to school figures.  By comparison, an analysis of 16 peer institutions—including the bMK-CM854_ANDERS_G_20140604195103usiness schools at the University of Virginia, Stanford University and University of Michigan—found that, on average, about 30% of tenure-track and 19.5% of tenured faculty were women in the 2012-2013 year…
The internal report states that women have high rates of job satisfaction when beginning careers at the school, but face a “lack of respect” regarding their work and “unevenly applied” standards on decisions about pay and promotions.
Twice in the past three years, the university’s governing academic body took the relatively rare step of overruling Dr. Olian, who had recommended against the promotion of one woman and against giving tenure to another, according to four Anderson professors.
In one case, the university found that policies allowing faculty to take parental leave without falling behind on the tenure track had been incorrectly applied to the candidate. In that same period, they said, a male candidate for promotion passed through the Anderson review, but didn’t get clearance from the university.

Even though UCLA’s business school stands out, the numbers reported in the article show that gender inequity plagues most top business schools. In 2010 45% of tenure-line faculty in psychology departments were women. In sociology, more than 50% of assistant professors are women, and roughly half of associate professors are women.  Women in psychology and sociology are doing much better in attaining tenured positions than are women in business schools.
So why are women not more represented on business school faculty? One possible reason is that business schools are still dominated and/or highly influenced by economics, in which the gender composition is heavily slanted toward men. According to a Wall Street Journal article from last year, women only get 32% of PhDs in economics (compared to 58% in the other social sciences).

In 2012, women accounted for 28.3% of untenured assistant professors, 40% of untenured associate professors, 21.6% of tenured associate professors and just 11.6% of full tenured professors.

In other words, women in economics are more likely to end up in untenured adjunct positions than they are in tenured faculty positions. This gender inequity in economics seeps into business schools since this is the discipline that most influences our research and teaching.


Written by brayden king

June 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Posted in academia, brayden, gender

12 Responses

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  1. I would be very curious to see the breakdown of these numbers across different departments within business schools and specifically to see the numbers for macro OB. I’d guess the numbers by stage for macro OB don’t look dramatically different from econ.



    June 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

  2. Perhaps not, although I would expect the numbers for micro-OB to be much better.


    brayden king

    June 9, 2014 at 7:47 pm

  3. Just to be clear, I don’t think the gender composition in economics is the ONLY source of gender inequity, but I do wonder if because b-schools are so influenced by economics, they also tend to carry over some of the same problems that make the discipline of economics inhospitable to women. It’s compounded by the fact that in business schools you often have (mostly male) economists evaluating the work of women from other disciplines and deciding whether they are tenurable.


    brayden king

    June 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm

  4. I’m sure many people saw it, but the NYT piece from last fall on gender at HBS is worth bringing up here: If this is a fair account, it sounds like the interventions they’ve made (for female students -and- faculty) have at least made some kind of difference.



    June 10, 2014 at 2:08 am

  5. Chicago’s Booth school would need to just about double the number of women faculty — from 19 to 37 — in order to have the same percentage of women in TT positions that Harvard GSB has now, assuming the new hires came through growth and not replacement. Any comment, Fabio or other people with local knowledge, on why Booth is lagging on this measure? Is there any current discussion about the gender composition of the faculty (at Booth or elsewhere on campus), and about what — if anything — should be done to change it?


    a different anon

    June 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

  6. University of Chicago issued a report in Feb. 2012 that provides data on the representation of women.

    “The proportion of tenured women in the faculty ranged from 3% in the 124-member Chicago Booth School of Business to 35% in SSA, with an average for all units of 17%.”

    I know this report attracted attention within Booth, but I’m not sure what specific actions have followed from it. There may be some that have happened in the last year or that are in the works, but I have been away and out of the loop.

    That said, although the fact that the numbers vary across institutions suggest that organization-specific factors contribute, that the issues seem to me at least as much profession-wide as institution-specific. Even at the places that look best according to the numbers, it’s not close to parity.

    Finally, I will say that I suspect that this conversation is a difficult one to have in public spaces like this because parties on all sides have reason to be reluctant to talk.


    Amanda Sharkey

    June 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm

  7. I would imagine the numbers are pretty much reflective of grad school graduation rates by gender as well. Perhaps one has to move one step back, and ask why b-school disciplines (other than OB) are inhospitable for female grad students.



    June 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

  8. @a different anon: My contact with the b-school at Chicago was fairly limited, so I don’t have any inside scoops about the source of gender imbalance there. I can offer some hypotheses. One is that it is a b-school strongly dominated by economists, who have a very low gender ratio. Another possibility is that OB and strategy faculty tend to be formal modelers, so that drives down the gender ratio as well. It is definitely worth asking about.



    June 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

  9. The “it’s all economics / the economics pipeline” explanation only works if Booth’s ratio of economists to non-economists is vastly out of synch with Harvard’s ratio, or if their proportion of economists in especially male-dominated subfields is vastly out of synch with Harvard’s proportions. And, if either are true, it just begs the question, why are Chicago Booth’s disciplinary and subdisciplinary priorities are so out of step with Harvard’s?

    I’m not trying to pick on Chicago, too much. The general problem with composition stories is that they aren’t especially satisfying. Imagine if instead of “Chicago doesn’t tend to hire women because they mostly hire formal modelers and freshwater economists,” the argument was, “Department X doesn’t tend to hire women because Department X doesn’t like gender research and women are disproportionately represented in that field.” The latter part of the sentence is empirically true — something like 85% of the members of the sex and gender section of the ASA are women — but the important question is why Department X doesn’t like gender research. One hypothesis, of course, is that the taste for a field is partially endogenous to the gender composition of that field.


    a different anon

    June 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

  10. “The “it’s all economics / the economics pipeline” explanation only works if Booth’s ratio of economists to non-economists is vastly out of synch with Harvard’s ratio, or if their proportion of economists in especially male-dominated subfields is vastly out of synch with Harvard’s proportions. And, if either are true, it just begs the question, why are Chicago Booth’s disciplinary and subdisciplinary priorities are so out of step with Harvard’s?”

    Booth’s ratio of economists to non-economists IS vastly out of sync with HBS. The school is dominated by disciplinary trained, high status economists. HBS is dominated by people who have their PhDs from HBS.



    June 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm

  11. Thanks, but you missed the broader point.


    a different anon

    June 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

  12. I don’t really know why economics is less attractive to women or why it’s less successful at tenuring women than other social science disciplines. My point was just that b-schools tend to have a lot of economists, and therefore that probably explains some of the gender inequities of business schools. And bschoolprof is right that some schools are more dominated by economists than others. Booth is at one end of the spectrum, and HBS is its own universe with its own weird tendencies. Because of their institutional history of recruiting from within and having abnormal criteria for getting tenure, HBS is really an outlier.

    But I think that making comparisons can be useful if there is some disciplinary variation between schools. Let’s just assume for a minute that this all just comes down to preferences in research. Men seem to be more attracted to economics, and women seem to be more attracted to Org. Behavior (for whatever reasons, I have no idea why). This is true if you just look at the gender composition of each field. So if one school is dominated by economists, then OB scholars are less likely to be recruited to that school and if one does sneak in the person is less likely to get tenure because her research is going to be evaluated primarily by people who are unappreciative. If another school has a significant cluster of OB scholars, then other OB scholars are more likely to be recruited in the future and they are more likely to get tenure. In the latter school, you’re going to see more gender equity than you would in the former simply due to the gender composition of each field.

    Most business schools have their fair share of economists, but there is clearly a disciplinary bias among the most elite schools. A place like Minnesota, which does relatively well on gender diversity, also tends to be more interdisciplinary. Booth in contrast is a haven for economics and likely always will be. It’s part of the school’s identity. It’s not surprising at all, then, that their gender composition is male-heavy.


    brayden king

    June 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm

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