ESAM Students Publish in Chaos Journal

ESAM students Sara Clifton, Kaitlin Hill, Avinash Karamchandani, and Eric Autry recently pushlished their work, "Mathematical Model of Gender Bias and Homophily in Professional Hierarchies," in Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science.

Their abstract reads:

Women have become better represented in business, academia, and government over time, yet a dearth of women at the highest levels of leadership remains. Sociologists have attributed the leaky progression of women through professional hierarchies to various cultural and psychological factors, such as self-segregation and bias. Here, we present a minimal mathematical model that reveals the relative role that bias and homophily (self-seeking) may play in the ascension of women through professional hierarchies. Unlike previous models, our novel model predicts that gender parity is not inevitable, and deliberate intervention may be required to achieve gender balance in several fields. To validate the model, we analyze a new database of gender fractionation over time for 16 professional hierarchies. We quantify the degree of homophily and bias in each professional hierarchy, and we propose specific interventions to achieve gender parity more quickly.

Women constitute approximately 50% of the population and have been an active part of the U.S. workforce for over half a century. Yet women continue to be poorly represented in leadership positions within business, government, medical, and academic hierarchies. As of 2018, less than 5% of Fortune 500 chief executive officers are female, 20% of the U.S. congress is female, and 34% of practicing physicians are female. The decreasing representation of women at increasing levels of power within hierarchical professions has been called the “leaky pipeline” effect, but the main cause of this phenomenon remains contentious. Using a mathematical model of gender dynamics within professional hierarchies and a new database of gender fractionation over time, we quantify the impact of the two major decision-makers in the ascension of people through hierarchies: those applying for promotion and those who grant promotion. The model is the first to demonstrate that intervention may be required to reach gender parity in some fields.

Karamchandani is currently working to finish his dissertation. Meanwhile, former students Autry and Hill work as a Phillip Griffiths Research Assistant Professor at Duke University and an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Mathematics, respectively.