Male academics value quick PhD completion more than women

Increasing number of female evaluators on committees could put more emphasis on long-term outcomes, says researcher

August 27, 2019
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Male academics may be more likely to place importance on how quickly a PhD candidate could complete their degree when assessing candidates’ potential, a study has suggested.

The research looked at scores given to almost 2,000 applicants to a humanities and social science PhD scholarship scheme in Canada and compared this with how quickly they finished their doctorate and whether they went on to a job in academia.

According to the paper, published in Scientometrics, male evaluators on the committees assessing applications for Social Science and Humanities Research Council scholarships gave a higher score to candidates who ended up completing their PhD within five years compared with female assessors.

The article by Vincent Chandler, a researcher in the department of industrial relations at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, says that the results “clearly indicate that male evaluators are rewarding candidates who can credibly demonstrate their capacity to complete their degree quickly”.

“Female evaluators may not perceive this information in the same way as male evaluators do or they may not find this outcome as relevant as male evaluators do,” Dr Chandler says in the paper.

Dr Chandler adds that “it would be interesting to understand the reasons behind the results”, such as whether “male and female evaluators have a different definition of success”.

He says that any organisation selecting people to sit on such assessment committees “should be aware that their gender affects their perception of candidates”.

“Male evaluators seem to give more importance than female evaluators to short-term outcomes or they are better able to distinguish candidates who have the potential to finish their doctoral studies quickly,” he says.

“Increasing the number of female evaluators on evaluation committees as a result of gender quotas could therefore put more emphasis on long-term outcomes and less on quick programme completion.”

However, the study found no evidence that the gender of the evaluators made any difference to whether their scores predicted which candidates went on academic roles.

Overall, a higher score given to the PhD candidates was associated with an increased probability that they went on to a tenure-track academic position. But male evaluators were not more likely to give higher scores to those who went on to secure a job in academia compared with their female counterparts.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Male scholars place more value on fast PhDs

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