Race and Gender

As a doctoral student at Harvard, I split my time between the computer science department (which granted my degree), the economics department (where I often went to bask in the brilliance of renowned behavioral economists like David Laibson and Sendhil Mullainathan, and Harvard Business School (where I found an extraordinary dissertation advisor, friend, and mentor in Max Bazerman. In all three places, it was rare to catch a glimpse of a female or underrepresented minority in the halls lined with faculty offices where I worked diligently on my thesis. Over time, the absence of these groups began to stick out at me like a sore thumb. I found myself counting the numbers of women and minorities at meetings and in seminars and wondering where they were all hiding? In my undergraduate years, even in my engineering classes, the demographics of my classmates had never seemed so unbalanced, but now that I had advanced up the career ladder in academia, diversity had disappeared. 

My increasingly obsessive awareness of this fact meant it was only a matter of time before my curiosity about it would inspire a research project. In my first year as a professor at Wharton, that project was born. Together with Modupe Akinola and Dolly Chugh, I hatched a plot to answer the question of whether discrimination (conscious or not) might help explain the scarcity of women and minorities in the ivory tower. To learn more about the study we conducted and our disturbing findings, read our two academic papers on the topic—the first [link: pdf: temporal-distance …] examines when discrimination arises in the academy, and the second [link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2063742] examines where.

In another, related research project with Kathleen McGinn, I also examined how an individual’s demographic match with her peers and supervisors at work relates to her likelihood of organizational advancement.

Related media content:

☛ Professors Are Prejudiced, Too
Dolly Chugh, Katherine Milkman, and Modupe Akinola
The New York Times