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Gender Bias in Performance Evaluations: Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Series
  • Speaker(s)
    Perihan Saygin (University of Florida, United States)
  • Field
    Empirical Microeconomics
  • Location
    Erasmus University Rotterdam, T3-06 (Mandeville building)
  • Date and time

    June 23, 2023
    15:30 - 16:45

Abstract: Despite a shrinking or even reversed gap in educational attainment, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, and a gender wage gap persists. Performance evaluations are a primary determinant of hiring and promotion decisions, and peer evaluations have become increasingly widespread in the workplace. There is, however, little evidence of whether peer evaluators exhibit gender bias. We identify and measure bias in performance evaluations in a large, introductory course at a flagship public university. Peer evaluators were randomly assigned to score essays using a rubric. Evaluators were incentivized to match official grades, adding a monitoring effect. We exploit the random assignments of both peer evaluators and blinded official graders over several essay assignments. Using student and peer evaluator fixed effects and conditioning on blinded official grades, we find that male peer graders assign higher scores to classmates without female-sounding names, relative to those with female sounding names, and that students without a female-sounding name receive higher scores when they are randomly assigned to a male peer grader as opposed to a female grader. We do not find such biases for women. The observed biases could be even more pronounced in real-world settings, where monitoring is less common. These results suggest that biased performance evaluations could be at least partly responsible for gender gaps in hiring and promotion, particularly in male-dominated fields where evaluators are more likely to be men. Joint paper with Thomas Knight.

link to paper