I read about a group of researches that did a field experiment on response from professors in academia to emails from students. And I am very sad about the results.
From NPR’s transcript of a Morning Edition story: Group of researchers ran this interesting field experiment. They emailed more than 6,500 professors at the top 250 schools pretending to be the students. And they wrote letters saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different. […] Brad Anderson. Meredith Roberts. Lamar Washington. LaToya Brown. Juanita Martinez. Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen. […] All they were measuring was how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with with the students. And what they found was there were very large disparities. Women and minorities [were] systematically less likely to get responses from the professors and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors. Now remember, these are top faculty at the top schools in the United States and the letters were all impeccably written.
“There’s absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” and, “In business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities.”
Milkman found there were very large disparities between academic departments and between schools. Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. And faculty in fields that were very lucrative were also more likely to discriminate. So there was very little discrimination in the humanities. There was more discrimination among faculty at the natural sciences. And there was a lot of discrimination among the faculty at business schools.
All this makes me sad and a bit worried about my academic future. It just shows me that I need to be extra pushy and remember to follow up on all the people I contact.