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Provost's Search Committee Tutorial: A Primer

Please Note: This is not the tutorial but a narrative version of tutorial materials, a primer if you will. Reading through this material will NOT give the necessary certification for serving on a faculty search committee. It is designed instead to offer all who are interested a chance to become familiar with the material covered in the tutorial prior to taking the tutorial and/or a chance to review material and references for individual topics after you have taken the tutorial.

If you would like to actually take the tutorial please click here.


10. Research Based Interventions that May Help Mitigate Gender Bias

The existence of bias against women in CV review, letters of recommendation, construction of hiring criteria, the awarding of postdoctoral fellowships, and advancement within the academy has been well documented (references below).

In 2009 faculty members at the University of Wisconsin published an article that systematically review[ed] experimental evidence for interventions mitigating gender bias in employment.” Authors Isaac, Lee and Carnes reviewed 130 articles published between 1973 and 2008 in a variety of journals (primarily behavioral and social science, business, and medical). Of these articles, twenty-seven met their inclusion criteria.

Here are some of the findings:

  1. When those evaluating the candidates were required “to commit to the value of credentials before reviewing any applicants” gender bias was eliminated.

  2. When raters had to rate specific applicants against specific criteria before making summary judgments about whether or not to hire an applicant, their ratings were more in line with their summary judgments than if they were allowed to make summary judgments before rating the candidates against the specific criteria.

  3. Those evaluating the candidates were significantly less likely to demonstrate bias against women applicants when they had adequate time to review applicant material and when they did not have cognitive diversions.

  4. Personnel decision makers who participated in workshops that covered material on common hiring biases and were offered group problem solving time aimed at overcoming those biases were less likely to make biased hiring decisions.    

This is only a partial listing of the findings in this comprehensive review. Based on the evidence in the articles, the authors recommended a number of interventions that institutions can initiate to help mitigate the bias that can “disadvantage women applicants in hiring settings.”


References with URLs below

Studies that show bias against women in hiring and/or advancement decisions.

  1. Ash, Carr, Goldstein and Friedman, 2004
  2. Carnes, Morrisey and Geller, 2008
  3. Steinpres, Anders and Ritzke, 1999
  4. Trix and Psenka, 2003
  5. Uhlmann and Cohen, 2005
  6. Wenneras and Wold, 1997
  7. Wright, Schwindt, Bassford, et al., 2003

Studies that document efficacy of various interventions to help reduce or eliminate bias against women in hiring and/or advancement situations.

  1. Encourage raters to spend adequate time and avoid cognitive distractions during evaluation

    • Martell, 1991
    • Sczesney and Kühnen, 2004
    • Tullar, Mullins and Caldwell, 1979

  2. Insist that raters wait to commit to the value of specific credentials until after seeing actual applicants

    • Uhlmann and Cohen, 2005

  3. Implement training workshops for personnel decision makers that include examples of common hiring biases and group problem solving for overcoming such biases

    • Hahn and Dipboye, 1988
    • Latham, Wexley and Pursell, 1975

      Note: There is an important new article by Sheridan, Fine, Pribbenow, et al., on the efficacy of workshops for increasing faculty diversity. Because it came out in 2010 it was not included in the review article by Isaac, Lee, and Carnes.

  4. Rate specific qualifications before making summary judgments about a given applicant

    • Cann, Siegfried and Pearce, 1981



Ash, A.S., P.L. Carr, R. Goldstein and R.H. Friedman. 2004. Compensation and advancement of women in academic medicine: Is there equity? Annals of Internal Medicine. 141: 205-212.

Cann, A, W.D. Siegfried and L. Pearce. 1981. Forced attention to specific applicant qualifications: impact on physical attractiveness and sex of applicant biases. Personnel Psychology. 34: 65-75.

Carnes, M, C. Morrissey and S. Geller. 2008. Women’s health and women in academic medicine: Hitting the same glass ceiling? Journal of Women’s Health. 17: 1453-1462.

Hahn, D.C. and R.L. Dipboye. 1988. Effects of training and information on the accuracy and reliability of job evaluations. Journal of Applied Psychology. 73(2): 146-53.

Isaac, C, B. Lee and M. Carnes. 2009. Interventions that affect gender bias in hiring: A systematic review. Academic Medicine. 84(10): 1440-1446.

Latham, G.P., K.N. Wexley and E.D. Pursell. 1975. Training managers to minimize rating errors in the observation of behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology. 60(5): 550-555.

Martell, R.F. 1991. Sex bias at work: The effects of attentional and memory demands on performance ratings of men and women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 21(23): 1939-1960. [no electronic copy]

Sczesney, S. and U. Kühnen. 2004. Meta-cognition about biological sex and gender-stereotypic physical appearance: consequences for the assessment of leadership competence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 30: 13-21.

Sheridan, J.T., E. Fine, C.M. Pribbenow, J. Handelsman and M. Carnes. 2010. Searching for excellence & diversity: Increasing the hiring of women faculty at one academic medical center. Academic Medicine. 85(6): 999-1007.

Steinpres, R.E., K. Anders, and D. Ritzke. 1999. The Impact of Gender on the Review of the Curricula Vitae of Job Applicants and Tenure Candidates: A National Empirical Study. Sex Roles. 41(7/8):509-28. Retrieved on May 23, 2005 from

Trix, F. and C. Psenka. 2003. Exploring the Color of Glass: Letters of Recommendation for Female and Male Medical Faculty. Discourse and Society. 14(2):191-220. Retrieved on May 23, 2005 from

Tullar, W.L., and T.W. Mullins. 1979. Effects of interview length and applicant quality on interview decision time. Journal of Applied Psychology. 64(6): 669-674.

Uhlmann, E.L.and Cohen, J.L. 2005. Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justify discrimination. Psychological Science. 16(6): 474-480. 
Wenneras, C. and A. Wold. 1997. Nepotism and Sexism in Peer Review. Nature. 387:341-43. Retrieved on May 23, 2005 from

Wright, A.L., L.A. Schwindt, T.L. Bassford, et al. 2003. Gender differences in academic advancement” Patterns, causes, and potential solutions in one US college of medicine. Academic Medicine. 78: 500-508.



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