Gender bias in DePaul University tenure decisions

November 13, 2009

An article published earlier this month in the Chicago Tribune discusses the recent concern about possible gender discrimination in the tenure review process of Depaul University. I think this is an important issue in science and engineering at least, the difficulty faced by females in academia is apparent. However, the numbers given by the women's attorney do not suggest on their own that gender discrimination is present.

histogram of the
					   probabilities of the number
					   of females denied tenure in
					   the no-discrimination case
The probabilities of the number of females denied tenure in the case that there is no gender discrimination.

According to the report, the attorney gave the following numbers as evidence of discrimination: there were 33 faculty up for tenure, 18 males and 15 females. Of the 7 faculty members denied tenure, 5 were women. I simulated a case where 7 people are denied tenure and all of the candidates have an equal chance of getting tenure; that is, there is no gender bias. The simulations show that the probability of at least 5 women being denied tenure is 13 percent.

This result suggests that the number of women denied tenure is not statistically significant at any commonly accepted level. Of course, this does not mean that there is not gender bias in the tenure review process at DePaul University. However, it is a clear case where the attorney (or perhaps the reporter) should not imply that these numbers are positive evidence for the presence of gender discrimintation at DePaul University.

contributors to this post

headshot of Mike Stringer
headshot of Dean Malmgren