Including women on selection committees for senior professorial posts improves female candidates' chances of success, a study of academic appointments at Spanish universities has found.
Selections for associate and full professor posts in Spain between 2002 and 2006 were studied by Manuel Bagües, assistant professor in the department of business at Carlos III University of Madrid, and Natalia Zinovyeva, research Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Economic Research in Madrid.
"We find that the gender composition of committees strongly affects the chances of success of candidates applying to full professor positions," the scholars write.
"In quantitative terms, for a committee with seven members, an additional female evaluator increases the chances of success of female applicants by 14 per cent."
However, there was no "significant interaction" between the gender of evaluators and the gender of candidates for associate professor posts.
Professor Bagües and Dr Zinovyeva believe their findings "might reflect the existence of ambivalent sexism, arising when men's attitudes toward female candidates depend on the position at stake."
The authors suggest that their findings provide "strong evidence" that gender quotas for hiring committees are not necessary for the lower rungs of the academic ladder.
The presence on the committee of just one woman is "enough to overcome the gender bias in evaluation" at full professor level, they add.
They warn that the smaller number of female academics means that sitting on selection committees can become a heavy burden for women and detract from research time.
The research, which is set out in a working paper for the Foundation for Applied Economic Research, is summarised in an article by the authors on the Centre for Economic Policy Research's Vox website, titled "Does gender matter for academic promotion? Evidence from a randomised natural experiment".
Professor Bagües and Dr Zinovyeva note that in Spain's academy, the increase in the number of female full and associate professors has not kept pace with the increase in the number of female PhD candidates.
To the authors' knowledge, their research is "the first study that exploits a randomised natural experiment in order to analyse the determinants of promotion to top positions".
In the period studied in Spain, 35,000 candidacies were judged by 7,000 evaluators.