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Cornell study in PNAS: women STEM faculty are 2-to-1 overrepresented

The fair fraction of female faculty is 2 times lower than the current one

Steven Pinker called it a shocker of a study but I am not surprised at all. The results coming from the paper I will discuss pretty much agree with my estimates based on the insider knowledge of similar mechanisms.

Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci (Cornell) just published a paper in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

The title is

National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track (click for full PDF)
Lots of fictitious male and female applications were sent to places where they 873 faculty members hire new tenure-track faculty. The compositions of the male and female applicants were the same – the same percentage of single and married applicants among the males and females, and so on. Various random reformulations were applied to the applications to hide that the people have the same credentials etc.

If you want to verify or reproduce their paper in some detail, you need to be careful about all these issues. But the results are summarized below and they speak a clear language:

The paper also contains similar barcharts comparing traditional fathers and single mothers; mothers and fathers taking leave etc.

Among the 16 columns above, the "mostly blue ones" are male applicants who would be hired; the "mostly red ones" are female applicants who would be hired. You see that the red color overwhelmingly dominates – the same female applicant is about 2 times more likely to be hired than her male counterpart.

The votes are also divided according to the sex of the hiring committee member: the "darker" red and blue bars refer to "male decision makers"; the "lighter" bars (right 2 bars in each quadruplet) express the opinions of the female voting faculty.

When all this information is taken into account, you may see that the anti-male bias is virtually omnipresent – it affects biology, engineering, psychology, as well as economics (engineering and economics represent the math-intensive fields). Among the eight combinations of "field and sex of voter", only senior male economists avoid the bias – they have a much smaller, 1.1-to-1, bias in favor of the male applicants (which is statistically indistinguishable from fairness).

All the other columns reveal a 2-to-1 up to 2.5-to-1 preference for female applicants. Senior women in engineering prefer female applicants by more than a 3-to-1 ratio.

Aren't those numbers enough for everyone who is reasonable to agree that the feminists are spectacular liars and/or unhinged cranks? The last sentences of the abstract works hard to spin this failed meritocracy in a positive way:
These results suggest it is a propitious time for women launching careers in academic science. Messages to the contrary may discourage women from applying for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) tenure-track assistant professorships.
Oh, sure. The fact that the committees primarily choose applicants according to their non-convex organs and breasts is such a wonderful thing, isn't it? The technical article is supplemented by a CNN op-ed by the authors titled The Myth About Women In Science which also mentions Emmy Noether and Lisa Randall, among others. See also Cornell Chronicle.

The fact that male (=more likely to be real) economists avoid this bias is interesting – but I think I would have predicted it, too. They are thinking about these matters in an economics way. If there is a better applicant, he or she should be hired. That's also why economists generally don't believe the ideology of victimism.

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reader Tony said...

Poor women! Constantly under attack, at least there is some help out there in the professional world to ease their immense suffering. Why not give them twice men's salary right from the start? Hopefully that may compensate them for all that pain and constant humiliation at least a little bit, even if Lord knows no amount of money can be enough. /sarc off

reader CentralCharge15 said...

I wouldn't be surprised if some feminists used this study to talk about an anti-female bias in economics by male hirers, ignoring the much more obvious anti-male bias in other fields and hirers.

If you notice, even among female hirers, economics is the least anti-male (least feminist), followed by biology.

I think your reasoning about the relative meritocracy in economics is absolutely correct, because economists tend to be economically right-wing (duh), believers in meritocracy, rather than "victim" appeasement.

reader Ann said...

Interesting, depressing results. I hope it's a wake-up call to otherwise rational people who still worry about gender gaps. Btw, the people who rant about 'gender gaps' in STEM and venture capital never squeak once about such gaps in dangeous careers, e.g., why not more women working oil rigs, fixing power lines, forest fighters, machinists, coal miners, etc.? What all this is really about is prestige and money and they (feminists) don't even want to earn it, they want it just handed to them. When they speak of more women in fashionable, lucrative Career X, their vision is one of effortless achievement and success, the idea that there is a lot of risk and failure to be encountered, is simply not considered. Failure could only mean a conspiracy of oppression, not one's own lack of ability or even sometimes bad luck. I see this in tech now, who wouldn't love to sell their 18-month old start-up for a billion dollars? It mostly does not happen, so just 'leaning in' or 'sitting at the table' won't get you there. One needs to LOVE the process, the experience of writing code, studying nature, doing math for its own sake, even if you labor in obscurity. The 'activists' never focus on the content of the field because they really don't care about it, they want attention and praise and prizes.

reader BobSykes said...

This is hardly surprising. Bias is rampant in academia. My former employer, a large public university, has positions that are open only to women and minorities, which is an obvious violation of state and federal law. I had a female colleague who would not accept male graduate advisees if she could avoid it, and she openly bragged about it. She also opposed interviewing a man who was an evangelical Christian on precisely those grounds. It turns out she didn't know the difference between evangelical and fundamentalist.

My former department made an offer to a black candidate for a full professorship who plainly had not would not sustain a externally funded research program, which is required even for tenure. He turned us down.

All federal agencies have research monies that are designated only for women and minorities. The infamous NSF hands out "Career Awards" to unqualified women and minorities like party favors, but white men require extraordinary achievement to get them.

The open racial and gender bigotry is truly astounding. The civil right movement has been turned on its head

reader lukelea said...

I noticed a while back that Lisa Randall had two of the top ten most sited physics papers ever. Does this reflect her true status in the profession? Just wondering.

reader Uncle Al said...

There are universities that admit only women. End them for sexist discrimination. There are more than 100 "historically black" universities,


Forced integration must be imposed at the Federal level. There must be busing to and from Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford University, Prude University.... Remove overabundant Asians form MIT, Caltech, and the University of California system. Replace them with Irish.

Make this a just world - at gunpoint. Competence is just another way of saying "selective exclusion."

reader Luboš Motl said...

I would say Yes.

reader Rehbock said...

In Warped Passages Randall writes "branes can make a world ... of difference" and branes "tantalizing, multi-layered, multi-faceted jungle gyms". Women with branes ... are exciting (sic)


reader Jerry Zhompson said...

I respect Dr. Woit's research. Regardless of one's position on string theory, it is clear that the physics community disregards promising investigations into the mathematical foundations of quantum theory. There could be a potentially deep relationship between the Langlands Program and the foundations of QFT, and understanding these mathematical connections could allow us to better understand not only QFT but approaches to quantum Gravity. Furthermore, Langlands could also be related to Chern-Simons and knot theory. Woit's research is not at all sufficiently appreciated, and it is rather tragic that these novel approaches to understanding both mathematics and QFT do not receive attention from the community.

reader John Archer said...

The correct number for what?

reader Mikael said...

Dear Dejan,
would you mind to elaborate on this? Which classical geometries are we integrating over? Isn't it always the Schwarzschild metric? Does the inside of the black hole play any role here? I expected a clear yes on Dilaton's question as part of your new inside.

reader John Archer said...

Anyone like to guess what the result would have been if the split were black vs white instead?

3 or 4 to 1 at least?

Answers on a postcard to .... Oh look who's come to dinner!

Joy, oh joy!

Marvellous. Quick! Put the silver back.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Thanks. Looks like your paper has generated a firestorm!! If I were you, I would be happy about it, much better than people ignoring the paper altogether!

reader Luboš Motl said...

By the correct numbers, I mean the numbers of all men and women who 1) want to work in a similar job, 2) whose quality exceeds the threshold needed for the total number of faculty to be equal to the same number N that is realized today.

I would insist that the paper proves that the correct ratio of men and women, as described above, is approximately 2 times higher than the actual one.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Excuse me. I am still trying to understand your work. I thought you were restricting to mass values where a BH is never formed. So are you saying that there is a problem with the argument, that beyond certain mass a collapsing star must form a BH?

reader Gordon said...

It would not be a problem at all if a woman were the most qualified candidate, and it may not make such a spectacular difference in the humanities; but it math, physics, computer science, engineering, it absolutely does. Demanding parity or more in these fields is feminism gone totally insane. Using quotas in fields where the applicants are overwhelmingly male will result in mediocrity. Already, if you check, many,many dept heads in STEM fields are females...whether this is justified by merit, I do not know, but suspect not.

Just what is wrong with talent and merit-based hiring practices?

reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

To be honest, I wanted a bit of attention. But not this much. It totally got out of control. Look at the titles "Black hole does not destroy matter: Hawking was wrong". I feel at least partially responsible for this. I can tell you I am not enjoying this.

reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

Dear Mikael,

It depends in which formalism you work, and what question you ask. But if you want a quantum description of a certain geometry you perhaps want to integrate over all the possible (and perhaps even impossible) geometries, just like in the particle propagators you have to integrate over all the paths, even the classically forbidden ones. Some of them will give you larger and some of them smaller contribution, but I would say you can't exclude any configuration a priori. But note that we are now here at the very undefined grounds. Once we learn how to do quantum gravity, the situation will perhaps be more clear.

reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

No, there is no restriction on the mass. Beyond certain mass a collapsing star will form a BH in its own frame.

reader MikeNov said...

What is the current split today of actual hired?
Let's assume 50-50, it doesn't matter for my point. Reverse the hiring at a 2-1 split.
Then you have 0 women and 1/4 men. Now how to calculate the fair number? If you split the remaining 3/4 equally, you have a 5:3 ratio. But before it was all men, so perhaps the correct number is 100%? With this study, we have a built in assumption of 50-50 equality. Unless women make up 2/3 of faculty, you can't really make the conclusion of doubly represented.
Indeed, I find the 2-1 ratio surprisingly low for equal quality candidates. I would expect many women would get the Elizabeth Warren treatment.

reader cynholt said...

HR departments have a similar bias against males. You'll hardly ever see a HR director who's male. This position is almost always taken by a female, who's either black or Latino or occasionally white.

Once in a while some poor sap, a young guy, is working in her department hauling her water for her. He will never get her job.

It is a political position, an affirmative-action gatekeeper position like the "Diversity" core requirements of a college degree, or a soviet-style Zampolit.

If you cannot get a fair shake as a white guy in the US, just leave.

It will soon be the case where white guys with STEM degrees can move abroad and have far better lives with that US sheepskin than in the US.

reader etudiant said...

The background is one of overwhelmingly male STEM faculty in an environment of strong political pressure to show gender balance. I'm astonished the ratio was only 2:1, as the pool of tenure track females in those fields is pretty shallow.

reader John Archer said...

"Our data suggest it is an auspicious time to be a talented woman launching a STEM tenure-track academic career, contrary to findings from earlier investigations alleging bias, none of which examined faculty hiring bias against female applicants in the disciplines in which women are underrepresented."

I'd say!

"The moral implications of women's hiring advantages are outside the scope of this article, but clearly deserve consideration."

Steady! You could be sticking your neck out there boys! And girls.

I wonder what Ceci and Williams's considerations were when they were polishing the precise wording for their paper. I'd like to have been a fly on that wall.

I wonder, too, if occurred to them that perhaps there might be other explanations for the 'underrepresentation' of women in STEM fields that "clearly deserve consideration". For example, do you think these two have heard of psychometric testing — you know, for things like possible differences between the sexes in the necessary mental abilities? Perhaps it never occurred them, them only being psychologists an' all. Yeah, that's probably it.

Still, given their 'unexpected' results and their having the brass neck to actually state them, they might need a safeguard.

Oh wait ... right at the end they've written themselves a nice one, a rose-scented get-out-of-gaol-free card:

"We hope the discovery of an overall 2:1 preference for hiring women over otherwise identical men will help counter self-handicapping and opting-out by talented women at the point of entry to the STEM professoriate, and suggest that female underrepresentation can be addressed in part by increasing the number of women applying for tenure-track positions."

Yep, that's what it might suggest all right. Sorted! :)

My guess is that these two authors know precisely what their results imply. Wisely, they just see the need to be careful. Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. That's the style! :)

Anyway, for the time being at least, they get the benefit of the doubt from me.

reader Winston Smith in Room 101 said...

Rules of survival in academia:

1. Don't notice patterns; only the approved narrative is acceptable.
2. If you notice a pattern, don't tell anyone.
3. If you tell someone about a pattern, don't write it.
4. If you write it, make sure you frame it in support of the narrative.
5. If you don't support the narrative, publish anonymously or not at all
6. If you ignored rules above, good luck with your new career at in food service / landscaping / delivery services.

reader mesocyclone said...

Also, unfortunately, STEM covers too wide a range. There are *lots* of women in biological sciences, for example, but few in math or advanced physics. This is not a random result, but clearly a consequence of choices made by women, and perhaps biological differences in aptitudes.

reader Wizard said...

it would be useful to see how they would vote if the faculty was already at a 1:1 male/female ratio...

reader Tony said...

There are some great references to information paradox by Samir Mathur that I just found and started reading:


I doubt that Dejan is not aware of all that, since he quotes Mathur, among other things. Thus, while I remain just somewhat informed amateur, it is not easy to accept Sabine's judgement that Dejan just doesn't understand or pretends to not understand (possibly even lie) the real issues here. It looks that both she and then Dejan then got pretty emotional, but, hey, that happens to all of us.

Incidentally, as I got more interested in issues with collapsing shell and started googling, there is at least one similar approach like:


by Ram Brustein and A.J.M. Medved, which also talks about off-diagonal elements restoring the state purity.

However, I'm confident that this is not what Sabine intended when she was claiming that "it is well known and nothing new". Rather, she prefers remnants or baby universes as the solution to the paradox..

reader Tony said...

Any way you look at it, it is time to call a thing by its proper name and admit that Western world and Anglo-sphere in particular has been pussy whipped.

reader RgF said...

Hawking's dead. Neat.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Apologies, I don't understand how you got either of your numbers, it makes no sense to me. How do you get 0 from 2-to-1 multiplicative adjustments and biases?

reader John Archer said...

One doesn't need to be a cricket aficionado to appreciate some aspects of the game:

Trueman bowls. Batsman is trapped plumb LBW*. Trueman appeals. Not out.

Next ball. Trueman ever-so-slightly irritated. Trueman bowls. Audible snick, ball deflects and sails upward, caught behind. Trueman appeals. Not out.

Third ball. Trueman a little more irritated now. Trueman bowls. Through the gate, stumps spread-eagled, middle stump uprooted and cartwheeling. Trueman turns to the umpire and says with a wry smile, 'We nearly had him that time, didn't we?'

* Leg before wicket.

reader Shannon said...

So true, Cynthia !... That's because HR is an easy large bag to keep these diversity crowd aside from real business and avoid causing more damage to any company. And also because HR is a simple apply-the-law, repeat-what-you've-learned, fill-in-the-forms, blow-the-whistle type of business. Women and diversity love this empowering gatekeeper position. Pathetic.

reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

Dear Kashyap,

Thank you very much for your very constructive discussion. Yes, Samir Mathur is a great expert on this topic. We had a long conversation about my paper. I am not sure if it is ok to paraphrase his opinion here and I am not even sure if he wants his name mentioned publically so I apologize to him in advance, but my impression was that he agreed with all the technical details in the paper (including not tracing over the inner modes), but emphasized the importance of doing the same analysis in a different foliation.

Also thanks for pointing out the paper above. I took a brief look at it. It is very nice. I think what they do is repeat the Hawking's analysis, but near the horizon instead of exactly at the horizon. Then they use the wave function for the collapsing shell as well, and because the quantum uncertainties this will introduce the mixing between the in and out modes. Then you get the off-diagonal corrections to the diagonal Hawking's density matrix. So again, the secret is in not discarding the inner modes. I agree with the authors conclusion that quantum treatment of the shell will help in restoring predictability instead of introducing further problems and uncertainties.
This agrees nicely with our previous paper
http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/0701096.pdf where we also quantized the shell and found an exact solution for the collapse and radiation (near the horizon). From our plots it is obvious that small semi-classical non-thermalities in the diagonal Hawking spectrum become amplified by quantum uncertainties of the quantum shell.
I think that one paper will not resolve the information loss paradox. It has to be a collective work of many people over some extended period of time. But we have to start asking questions which did not quite make sense 40 years ago.

reader MikeNov said...

I'm not understanding where you are getting your 2-1 overrepresentation. It looks to me like that starts with an assumption of equality, that the correct ratio is 50-50. Let's start with your 20% women, 80% men split.
1)Do you think equally qualified women are being hired at 2-1 ratio?

2) If so, then that women were hired at a 2-1 ratio from a starting point of 70%men-0% women.

reader Guest said...

Hi Dejan,
I am sorry, but I cannot make any sense of what you write about
1. the horizon not forming in finite time
2. modes not getting behind it
3. the collapsing object radiating for a finite time

The background in which you are solving the wave equation is fixed: the horizon is there even if your foliation does not cross it, and the collapsing body will indeed keep "radiating forever" in schwarzschild time, for the simple reason that backreaction is ignored...

My guess is that the modes decomposition you use is similar to a decomposition in standing (outgoing+ingoing) waves.
The outside observer will only have access to the outgoing ones, and you are effectively back with the standard result.

reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

Dear Guest,

No, the background in which we are solving the equations is not fixed. We are not working in the static space-time of a pre-existing black hole and just track the modes in this background (which was the standard procedure). The source of gravity (the collapsing shell) is time-dependent and thus the geometry. In the global space-time structure the horizon might be there, but will be formed only in the infinite future of our observer. We do not calculate the backreaction, but in its simplest form the backreaction will imply that mass will be lost in finite time and thus in this foliation horizon does not form in finite time. Thus we do not trace out the inner modes.

It is very difficult to compare our formalism with the standard Bogoliubov method because of the time-dependent background. Particles in time dependent background are not well defined, nor you can divide them into positive and negative frequency modes. We calculate the total wave function of excitations in this background (which includes all the modes), the diagonal spectrum that looks like Hawking's and its corresponding density matrix, and then the total density matrix with correlations.

We do not separate the modes into ingoing and outgoing since we do not track the modes. But if you want to assume that the inner modes will be lost once the horizon is formed, you could just drop the contribution to the wave function with the support from the interior of the shell (eq. 7 in our paper). The reason why we do not drop that contribution is that interior always remains Minkowski in finite time.



reader Guest said...

Dear Dejan,
the background is obviously not static, but it is nevertheless fixed (no backreaction) and the schwarzschild patch outside the shell has nothing mysterious.
The horizon is there: you can't hand-wave it away, and certainly not with arguments about the foliation, which has nothing to do with that.
Same goes for the ingoing modes: any complete set of modes, whatever defined, has to span those as well, otherwise the cauchy problem would not be solvable.


reader Dejan Stojkovic said...

Dear Andrea,
At t=0 there is no horizon (trapped surface). At what t does the trapped surface appear in our problem?
Our set of modes is complete.
I think I understand where your question is coming from, but we are not solving that problem.
Maybe we can continue discussion via email, or even by phone. You have my information on my website.