András Tilcsik, University of Toronto

Reducing Bias in Teaching Evaluations: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
András Tilcsik


Fall 2017
Lecture Time: 
Friday, September 29, 2017 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business
Introduced By: 
Laura Sonday


Quantitative performance ratings are ubiquitous in modern organizations—from businesses to universities—and are often tied to important workplace outcomes, such as promotions and compensation. There is growing evidence of bias against women and minorities in performance ratings in a variety of industries, suggesting that performance ratings represent an important mechanism of workplace inequality. In this study, we examine how gender inequality in evaluations depends on the architecture of evaluation—specifically, how the design of the tools used to judge merit may influence the presence or absence of bias. Exploiting a natural experiment in a large North American business school, we show that the number of scale points used in teaching evaluations (e.g., whether instructors are rated on a scale of 6 versus a scale of 10) has a substantial effect on the gender gap in evaluations, even when controlling for course and instructor heterogeneity. Our findings contribute to recent debates about gendered assessments of competence as well as the sociological literature on how rating systems—rather than being neutral instruments—shape the distribution of rewards in organizations.

Additional Notes

András Tilcsik holds the Canada Research Chair in Strategy, Organizations, and Society at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. His research on work and organizations has received several best paper awards from the American Sociological Association and the Academy of Management. His first book, Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It (with Chris Clearfield), will be published by Penguin Press in 2018.