In Nature Human Behaviour, French and Canadian researchers report on a study on “Committees with implicit biases promote fewer women when they do not believe gender bias exists”.
In their two-year study into the implicit and explicit gender beliefs of French committees selecting top researchers in France, they analysed the selection behaviour and implicit/explicit assumptions of 414 committee members of 40 committees in two consecutive years; they found a significant difference between year 1 and year 2 in how many more man than women were selected.
The selection was for top research positions, with all applicants having an extremely high H-index and the choice was on qualitative and subjective criteria like “originality”.
Committee members were informed of the bias study and implicit belief that science is naturally more a male thing. This was tested in the “Implicit Association Test”; explicit theories – that female underrepresentation was due to external or rather personal factors – was tested in a survey. None of this was repeated in the second year, so committee members were much less aware that French authorities were concerned about underrepresentation.
Statistical analysis showed that committee members who see science as a male thing and feel that female underrepresentation is caused by a personal factor (lack of ability or motivation) selected significantly fewer women in the second year.