Counteracting Bias in Recruitment and Evaluation


Dear Reader, dear future colleague

We know from 30 years of empirical research, that women in science are judged more critically than men and are often evaluated as less capable when performing similar or even identical work. We, the Faculty of Science, believe this systematic bias against women has important implications for every stage of a woman's scientific education and career, therefore we have taken active measures to counteract bias in ourselves and in our institutional procedures.

We begin each professorial hiring process with self- and group-reflection about unconscious bias and the incontrovertible evidence from empirical studies of its influence on the evaluation of women scientists (see our video “We’re Hiring: Professorial Recruitment and Selection at the MNF” and our flyer, “Recruiting for Excellence”). We have a specialist on all hiring committees, trained to recognize and counteract biased decision-making. We have also changed the hiring process itself to increase the number and proportion of women applicants, to ensure gender balance in evaluation team, and to eliminate the disadvantage of solo status when a single woman makes the finalist pool.

We take these actions for reasons of basic fairness and because we know that a diverse faculty is a stronger faculty and allows equitable representation of women in decision-making and better role modeling for our students (especially, but not only, the women).

Change is a slow process, but the hiring data in recent years shows a vast improvement in the number of new women professors hired by the MNF in competitive appointment processes:

  • 2016: 33% of new hires were women (1 of 3)
  • 2017: 0% of new hires were women (0 of 2)
  • 2018: 80% of new hires were women (4 of 5)
  • 2019: 100% of new hires were women (1 of 1)
  • 2020: 100% of new hires were women (2 of 2)

And the chronic gender pay gap evident in businesses around the world is minimal in our Faculty, where men and women's professorial salaries show no differences.
Our gender equality initiatives have had some success, but we recognize and commit ourselves to the long journey of self-reflection and institutional change necessary to bring women and men to an equal playing field in science.
Prof. Dr. Roland Sigel, Dean, Faculty of Science (MNF), UZH


Gender equality measures since 2015:

Implementation of gender equality standards for composition of structure and search committees

  1. 2+ female professors on all committees to show women have place and power at the MNF
  2. Professorial appointment specialist on all committees to recognize and counteract bias
  3. Increasing the number and proportion of women applicants
  4. Gender balanced list of possible candidates, consideration of gendered language in advertisement and head hunting
  5. Professional development regarding unconscious bias in faculty searches
  6. Raising awareness of the influence of unconscious biases (workshop, leaflet, 1-page CV, criteria list)
  7. Strengthening a culture of esteem that is compatible with academic excellence
  8. Emphasizing successful examples (e.g. financial support of conferences, etc. featuring at least 50% women guest speakers)
  9. Ensuring continuation of gender mainstreaming
  10. MNF committee for gender equality
  11. Creation of part-time professorships


More information

This project has been presented at the LERU gender conference 2016 in Lund. Click here for the pdf of the poster (PDF, 5 MB).