Sometimes, entrepreneurs name former teachers as their mentors. But a recent study finds that university faculty often discriminate against female and minority students when it comes to requests for intellectual guidance.


Study authors Katherine Milkman of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Modupe Akinola of Columbia University’s Columbia Business School and Dolly Chugh of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University sent mentor requests via e-mail to over 6,500 professors at 259 schools while researching the issue. In the messages, they used fake names that were indicative of the imaginary senders’ genders or ethnicities.

It was through responses to those e-mails – or rather, a lack thereof – that the team was able to observe patterns of bias.

“We found that faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from Caucasian males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions,” the abstract summary of the study states.

Milkman discussed these findings on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“The very worst in terms of bias is business academia. So in business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities,” she said.

Milkman additionally noted that the fictional female and minority students who attempted to meet with professors in the same demographics as them also suffered from an inability to forge such relationships.

“There’s absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” Milkman told the hosts of the show.

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Related: Alison Martin-Books: Mentoring Women’s Network
Related: Brit Fitzpatrick: Mentor Me – Technology to Facilitate Mentorship