Summary: Nov. 16th, 2017 Discussion

Tess Grainger presented on “Solutions for increasing diversity in STEM – do they work?” Here is her summary:

I discussed three approaches that have been used to increase diversity in STEM fields and in the workplace more generally: double-blind peer review, diversity hiring policies and maternity leave. I talked about the rational for each of these approaches, and outlined some studies that have tested their effectiveness.

Double-blind peer review:

In double-blind peer review, author information is masked from reviewers (in addition to reviewer information being masked from authors). This approach aims to eliminate reviewer biases associated with authors’ gender, ethnicity and seniority (Wenneras and Wold 2001). A study focused on ecological journals found that the proportion of published papers that had female first authors increased after double-blind review was implemented at Behavioral Ecology, while there was no change over the same time period at four journals that maintained single-blind review (Budden et al. 2008). However, a subsequent analysis of these data found no effect of double-blind review implementation on the representation of female first authors (Webb et al. 2008). Indeed, the findings of Budden et al. (2008) provoked a series of responses that ranged from complementary (Darling 2014) to critical (Whittaker 2008). In addition, while researchers consider double-blind peer review to be the most effective review method (Mulligan et al. 2012), a recent study of submissions to Nature group publications found that only 12% of authors actually choose double-blind review when given the option (Di Ranieri et al. 2017). These controversies and contradictions indicate that perhaps more data are need to identify the most effective way to implement double-blind peer review, and to understand when it is effective.

Faculty hiring policies:

These are hiring or search policies implemented at the university or the department level that are aimed at increasing the number of diverse applicants and hires. A study of 689 faculty searches examined whether these strategies are effective at increasing the diversity of hired faculty, with a focus on racial diversity (Smith et al. 2004). The policies examined in this study included a job description that explicitly mentioned diversity, a special hire strategy (e.g. diversity hire, spousal hire), and a diverse search committee (Smith et al. 2004). The authors found that only 26% of searches included one or more of these strategies, but that 71% of the cases when an under-represented group was hired, at least one of these policies had been implemented (Smith et al. 2004). The authors concluded that having at least one of these policies in place leads to more diverse hires.

Maternity leave:

Parental leave policies allow mothers to take a leave from their job after giving birth with the guarantee that their position will be held for them. Leaves can be either paid or unpaid, and range widely in length and compensation amount by country, province and company. A study that compared rates of mothers returning to work after having a child across the USA, Japan and the UK found that the proportion of mothers who returned increased substantially when even unpaid leave policies were in place (Waldfogel et al. 1999). Another study comparing rates of return to work before and after California’s Paid Family Leave Program was introduced similarly found that after the policy was in place, women were more likely to be working one year after giving birth (Baum and Rhum 2016).