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Gender quotas or girls’ networks? Towards an understanding of recruitment in the research profession in Italy
This article investigates the role of the gender composition of selection committees and networks in promoting women in research activities. We exploit a novel data set on recruitment processes in a leading Italian research centre that mainly operates in hard science. Unlike previous studies that focus on qualifications for professorships (De Paola and Scoppa, 2015; Zinovyeva and Bagues, 2011; Bagues et al., 2014), this article examines entry-level research positions, where gender imbalance usually starts. We find some evidence of discrimination against women at non-tenured entry levels, which is attenuated (or even reversed) by the presence of a woman on the selecting committee. However, the most important predictor for recruitment seems to be previous connections with the research centre, which also serves as an important mechanism for women to enter the research profession. There are further differences in the results depending on the characteristics of the committees. While higher quality commissions tend to choose more productive candidates and their decisions are not influenced by gender and/or pre-existing ties with the institution, in all the remaining cases prior acquaintance with the candidate reveals as the most important factor of success. Analysis of the post-competition productivity of female and male candidates shows that applicants with prior ties are significantly more productive, suggesting a positive signalling by prior ties of candidates’ research quality. This is, however, different for men and women, as women exhibit lower productivity and more stable time patterns when compared to men, irrespective of whether or not they are hired with prior connections.