A few years ago, Michelle Hebl attended the latest in a series of talks hosted by her department at Rice Univeristy. The speaker was a man, and Hebl realized that she hadn’t heard any female speakers in that series for a while. “Maybe I’m just not thinking about them,” she thought. “Or maybe it’s something we should look at.”*
Colloquium talks, where academics are invited to discuss their research, give speakers a chance to publicize their work, build collaborations with new colleagues, and boost their reputations. The talks can lead to promotions or job offers. They are big opportunities. But as Hebl’s student Christine Nittrouer eventually found, they are opportunities that are predominantly extended to men.
Why does this happen? Hebl accounted for several of what she calls “yeah-but explanations,” which underplay these figures as the result of anything other than discriminatory biases. For example, some might argue that men outnumber women in many fields, and so any equitable selection process would naturally lead to more male speakers. But the team estimated the full pool of available speakers by counting every professor in their six chosen fields at each of the top 100 U.S. universities. And even after adjusting for the relative numbers of men and women in the various fields or ranks, they found that men are still 20 percent more likely to be invited to give colloquium talks than women.
Read the whole story: The Atlantic