Study Finds Significant Racial Bias in Hiring Biology and Physics Faculty

According to a new study led by Aisa Eaton, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University in Miami, there is a significant gender and racial bias in hiring biology and physics faculty.

For the study, the research team asked physics and biology professors at eight public research universities to evaluate the CV of a candidate applying for postdoctoral positions in their respective fields. The CVs for each hypothetical candidate were identical, except for the candidate’s gender and race, as suggested by their first and last names. The names represented a man or woman who was either White, Black, Latinx, or Asian. In order to maintain ambiguity about the study’s real purpose, the participants were told that the study was about how CV formatting and design styles influence perceptions of postdoc candidates. The research team included questions about this topic, but later tossed them, and concentrated instead on the participants evaluation of each candidate’s hireability, competence, likability, and competitiveness.

The results showed that the physics professors rated Asian and White candidates as more competent and hireable than Black candidates. Black women were rated significantly lower than other candidates in physics as well. In biology, similar racial disparities were seen; biology professors rated Asian candidates as more competent and worthy of hiring than Black candidates.

In order to prevent this bias during the hiring process, the researchers suggest that universities establish anti-bias training to target intersectional identities. Additionally, they recommend that all hiring processes be conducted by a committee so one individual’s biases do not get in the way of hiring the most qualified candidate.

The full study, “How Gender and Race Stereotypes Impact the Advancement of Scholars in STEM: Professors’ Biased Evaluations of Physics and Biology Post-Doctoral Candidates,” was published in the journal Sex Roles. It may be accessed here.

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