Gender disparities in colloquium speakers at top universities

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jan 2;115(1):104-108. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1708414115. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


Colloquium talks at prestigious universities both create and reflect academic researchers' reputations. Gender disparities in colloquium talks can arise through a variety of mechanisms. The current study examines gender differences in colloquium speakers at 50 prestigious US colleges and universities in 2013-2014. Using archival data, we analyzed 3,652 talks in six academic disciplines. Men were more likely than women to be colloquium speakers even after controlling for the gender and rank of the available speakers. Eliminating alternative explanations (e.g., women declining invitations more often than men), our follow-up data revealed that female and male faculty at top universities reported no differences in the extent to which they (i) valued and (ii) turned down speaking engagements. Additional data revealed that the presence of women as colloquium chairs (and potentially on colloquium committees) increased the likelihood of women appearing as colloquium speakers. Our data suggest that those who invite and schedule speakers serve as gender gatekeepers with the power to create or reduce gender differences in academic reputations.

Keywords: academia; colloquia; gatekeepers; gender bias; professional recognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States
  • Universities*
  • Women's Rights*