A gender bias habit-breaking intervention led to increased hiring of female faculty in STEMM departments

Addressing the underrepresentation of women in science is a top priority for many institutions, but the majority of efforts to increase representation of women are neither evidence-based nor rigorously assessed. One exception is the gender bias habit-breaking intervention (Carnes et al., 2015), which, in a cluster-randomized trial involving all but two departmental clusters (N = 92) in the 6 STEMM focused schools/colleges at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, led to increases in gender bias awareness and self-efficacy to promote gender equity in academic science departments and perceptions of a more positive departmental climate. Following this initial success, the present study compares, in a preregistered analysis, hiring rates of new female faculty pre- and post-manipulation. Whereas the proportion of women hired by control departments remained stable over time, the proportion of women hired by intervention departments increased by an estimated 18 percentage points (OR = 2.23, dOR = 0.34). Though the preregistered analysis did not achieve conventional levels of statistical significance (p < 0.07), the study has a hard upper limit on statistical power, as the cluster-randomized trial has a maximum sample size of 92 departmental clusters. These findings, however, have undeniable practical significance for the advancement of women in science, and provide promising evidence that psychological interventions can facilitate gender equity and diversity.