University Professors more Likely to Meet with White Males than with anyone else Requesting Help

Tuesday, May 06, 2014
(AP photo)

They may not be the teacher’s pet, but white men certainly enjoy the attention of university professors more than women and minorities do, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and New York University decided to test the response rate of professors when it comes to students requesting help. They crafted phony emails from fictitious doctoral students and sent them to 6,500 professors at 259 universities.


The key to the test was in the names of the students at the bottoms of the emails. The researchers chose names that would cause the recipients to presume the gender and racial backgrounds of those asking for a meeting to discuss research opportunities. The names were: Brad Anderson, Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, LaToya Brown, Juanita Martinez, Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong and Mei Chen.


After analyzing the responses, the researchers concluded that professors “ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from White males,” according to their paper.


The disparity was especially noticeable “in private schools and higher-paying disciplines.” In some fields, such as the natural sciences and business, there was “a 25-percentage-point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males versus women and minorities,” Katherine Milkman of Penn’s Wharton School told National Public Radio.


Milkman and her colleagues, Columbia’s Modupe Akinola and NYU’s Dolly Chugh, also tested whether the gender and ethnicities of the professors made any difference. They found it did not.


There was “absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” Milkman said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Tips for Finding a Great Mentor: Be White and Be Male (by Katy Waldman, Slate)

Professors Ignore Emails from Women and Minorities at Higher Rate Than White Males (by Scott Kaufman, Raw Story)

What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations (by Katherine L. Milkman, Modupe Akinola and Dolly Chugh)

Unemployed Black Woman Pretends to be White, Job Offers Suddenly Skyrocket (Techyville)


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