UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 1 | Jan.
Researcher thanks preferential hiring survey participants
I would like to thank the many chairs and chairs' assistants who
responded to my recent survey on the hiring rates of men and women
faculty at SFU and UBC.
The survey asked how many applicants of each sex had applied to
the last three positions filled, as well as the sex of the successful
applicants. I received responses from more than half of the departments/schools
polled: 17 from SFU and 19 from UBC. The respondents represented
all of the disciplines recognized by Statistics Canada, but we did
not poll Nursing.
From the respondent departments, the total number of men applying
to both institutions was 3,219; the number of women, 1,306. Thus
71.1 per cent of applicants were male, while 28.9 per cent were
This ratio was identical for the two institutions, and is similar
to that reported for a 10-year period at the University of Western
Ontario (Seligman, SAFS Newsletter, April 2001).
Overall, this suggests that currently, at least 70 per cent of
faculty job applicants to Canadian academic institutions are male.
The situation varies somewhat across disciplines. For example,
the proportion of male applicants is significantly higher in the
natural sciences than in the humanities. However, across both B.C.
institutions, only one of the disciplines responding reported substantially
more female applicants. In the vast majority of departments, more
men than women applied.
Of the 105 people from the survey actually hired, 43 (41 per cent)
were women, and 62 (59 per cent) were men.
This discrepancy between the ratio of applicants to the ratio
of hirees is statistically significant, using a Chi-square analysis
in which the expected hiring rate is based on the applicant pool.
Again, this confirms findings from the UWO study, where women
were hired in proportions significantly higher than would be predicted
from the number of women applicants.
An earlier Canada-wide report, estimating the applicant pool from
the number of PhD graduates, similarly found an over-representation
of women among new faculty in the preceeding two decades (Irvine,
Assuming equivalent quality ranges in men and women applicants,
that is, the same proportion of "excellent" to "average" candidates,
it must follow that, when preferences are severe, some women will
be hired over better-qualified men.
For example, in one case all three hirees were female though the
ratio of men to women applicants was 2:1. It is clear that women
are not being discriminated against in hiring in any Canadian university
to date on which we have information.
This holds true for Science disciplines: in both biological and
physical sciences, women were over-hired, though the sample size
being smaller than in the case of total applicants, the effect is
not statistically significant.
However, one can state with certainty that there is no evidence
of a bias against hiring women in the sciences, subjective impressions
Of course, some questions remain. The findings do not rule out
idiosyncratic cases of negative bias against women at either a departmental
or individual level. However, men may suffer identical idiosyncratic
bias, and the data show that they suffer generalized negative bias
Some might contend that women are hired preferentially because
they are better qualified. This seems unlikely given the generally
lower productivity of women academics (e.g., Schneider, Chronicle
of Higher Education, 1998, Sept. 11), but only access to vitae
can answer that question.
It also seems unlikely that respondent bias was a significant
factor, since our data are consistent with previous studies cited,
in which no respondent bias could operate.
Visiting Professor, SFU