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Missing or seizing the opportunity? The effect of an opportunity hire on job offers to science faculty candidates

Jill Allen (Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Jessi L. Smith (Department of Psychology, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Lynda B. Ransdell (College of Health and Human Services, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 11 January 2019

Issue publication date: 26 February 2019




As universities grapple with broadening participation of women in science, many ADVANCE funded institutions hone in on transforming search committee practices to better consider dual-career partners and affirmative action hires (“opportunity hires”). To date, there is a lack of empirical research on the consequences and processes underlying such a focus. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether and how two ADVANCE-recommended hiring practices, dual-career hiring and affirmative action hiring, help or hinder women’s participation in academic science.


In two experiments, the authors tested what happens to a science candidate’s evaluation and offer when that candidate reveals he or she has a dual-career partner (vs is a solo-candidate, Experiment 1) or if it is revealed that the candidate under review is the dual-hire partner or is a target of opportunity hire (vs primary candidate, Experiment 2). A random US national sample of academic scientists provided anonymous external recommendations to an ostensible faculty search committee.


Evaluators supported the job offer to a primary candidate requiring a heterosexual partner accommodation. This good news, however, was offset by the results of Experiment 2, which showed that support for the partner or affirmative action candidate depended on the evaluator’s gender. Taken together, the research identifies important personal and contextual features that sometimes do – and sometimes do not – impact hiring perceptions of women in science.


The authors believe the effects of such an emphasis on opportunity hires within ADVANCE funded institutions may be considerable and inform changes to policies and practices that help bring about gender equality.



Allen, J., Smith, J.L. and Ransdell, L.B. (2019), "Missing or seizing the opportunity? The effect of an opportunity hire on job offers to science faculty candidates", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 160-177.



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