Tenure(d) Gap: Affirmative Action in Academia
Women remain significantly underrepresented in academia, especially among full professors. In response, policymakers are debating affirmative action policies to close the gap in tenure rates. But to date, the public debate lacks empirical evidence showing that these policies help the representation of women. This paper evaluates the impact of a nationwide affirmative action policy by the German Ministry of Education that competitively provides start-up funding to departments appointing women to full professors. Since its first implementation in 2008, the `Professorinnenprogramm' has provided financing for appointing 671 women to full professors (20 percent of all women hirings). Using administrative data on all academic personnel employed at German public universities in a staggered difference-in-differences design and an instrumental variable approach -- exploiting that members of the rectorate are less likely to assign start-up funding to their own department -- we document two main findings. First, departments receiving start-up funding experience a substantial mechanical increase in the share of full female professors. In subsequent hiring decisions, however, these departments become less favorable toward female candidates. Second, increased exposure to female professors shifts gender attitudes. Departments exposed to the policy are more likely to hire junior female faculty and are more likely to collaborate with women measured through newly established co-authorships. Disentangling the effects by age and experience reveals that junior male faculty members drive both changes. The results suggest that affirmative action policies are an effective tool to increase the representation and perception of women in science.