Does Encouragement Matter in Improving Gender Imbalances in Technical Fields? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled TrialPLOS ONE (2016)
Does encouragement help address gender imbalances in technical fields? We present the
results of one of the first and largest randomized controlled trials on the topic. Using an
applied statistics conference in the social sciences as our context, we randomly assigned
half of a pool of 3,945 graduate students to receive two personalized emails encouraging
them to apply (n = 1,976) and the other half to receive nothing (n = 1,969). We find a robust,
positive effect associated with this simple intervention and suggestive evidence that women
responded more strongly than men. However, we find that women’s conference acceptance
rates are higher within the control group than in the treated group. This is not the case for
men. The reason appears to be that female applicants in the treated group solicited supporting
letters at lower rates. Our findings therefore suggest that “low dose” interventions may
promote diversity in STEM fields but may also have the potential to expose underlying disparities
when used alone or in a non-targeted way.
Publication DateApril 20, 2016
Citation InformationUnkovic C, Sen M, Quinn KM (2016) Does Encouragement Matter in Improving Gender Imbalances in Technical Fields? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0151714.