Lauren Rivera Talk Title TBAScaling Down Inequality: Rating Scales, Gender Bias, and the Architecture of Evaluation

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Date and Time: 
Monday, November 26, 2018
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Speaker: 
Lauren Rivera
Northwestern
Abstract: 

Quantitative performance ratings are ubiquitous in modern organizations—from businesses to universities—but there is substantial evidence of bias against women in such ratings. This study examines how gender inequalities in evaluations depend on the design of the tools used to judge merit. Exploiting a quasi-natural experiment at a large North American university, we find that the number of scale points used in faculty teaching evaluations—whether instructors were rated on a scale of 6 versus a scale of 10—significantly affected the size of the gender gap in evaluations. A survey experiment, which presented all participants with an identical lecture transcript but randomly varied instructor gender and the number of scale points, replicated this finding and suggested that the number of scale points affects the extent to which gender stereotypes of brilliance are reflected in quantitative ratings. These results highlight how seemingly minor technical aspects of performance ratings can have a major effect on the evaluation of men and women. Our findings thus contribute to a growing body of work on organizational practices that reduce workplace inequalities and the sociological literature on how rating systems—rather than being neutral instruments—shape the distribution of rewards in organizations.