Research Roundup: December 2022

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022
By AACSB Staff
Working toward more diverse faculties, making parents aware of gender bias, and increasing collaboration between employers and community colleges.

Ensuring Equity in Remote Work

When the pandemic forced companies to shift their employees to remote work, many workers benefited from the greater flexibility that came with work-from-home arrangements. But that benefit was not universal. In many cases, remote work led to greater workplace inequities, according to a report from Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

The report’s authors include Carmina Ravanera, a senior research associate at GATE; Kim de Laat, formerly a postdoctoral fellow at GATE and currently an assistant professor of organization and human behavior at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business in Ontario; and Sarah Kaplan, Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy, professor of strategic management, and director of GATE.

The report notes that although many individuals benefit from the flexibility that remote work provides, women and people from marginalized groups who work from home can experience career penalties such as lower wages and fewer promotions. This is largely due to bias, stereotypes, and the stigma that comes with remote work. And for individuals who lack access to stable housing and high-speed internet, are victims of domestic violence, or struggle to balance work and caregiving obligations, working from home can lead to greater work-family conflicts, higher stress levels, and other mental health issues.

The report calls on organizations to adopt remote work policies that counteract bias and structural disadvantages. For example, organizations can communicate reliably and consistently to all employees, ensure that employees have access to affordable childcare and adequate paid family leave, and offer flexible work arrangements that make it easier for workers to manage household responsibilities.

Organizations can remove the stigma of remote work by letting employees know that they do not have to work longer hours at home, creating team-building opportunities for employees working at home, and eliminating employee monitoring. Such policies would help decrease work-family conflict, increase worker motivation, and improve job performance.

The goal, the co-authors write, is “to create policies and initiatives that prioritize well-being and prosperity for all remote workers, not just those who fit the ‘ideal worker’ norm.”

First-Born Daughters and Inventorship

The first-born daughter of an inventor is more likely to become an inventor herself—but only if she does not have a second-born brother, according to a study published in Management Science. Its co-authors include Karin Hoisl, holder of the Chair of Organisation and Innovation at University of Mannheim Business School in Germany; Hans Christian Kongsted, a professor of applied econometrics at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark; and Myriam Mariani, a professor of applied economics at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy.

The three researchers examined data related to nearly 1.2 million Danish children born between 1966 and 1985. They then used patent applications to identify whether one, both, or neither of these childrens parents were inventors. They found that both first-born sons and first-born daughters with inventor parents were more likely to become inventors. But this effect did not hold true for first-born daughters whose parents had a second-born son.

Inventor parents could be affected by bias that leads them to treat their children differently, based on gender.

Having a younger brother seemed to limit an older sister’s access to parental knowledge about inventorship and parental networks, discussions of career plans, and transmission of enthusiasm about creativity and innovation. The likelihood of first-born daughters becoming inventors was not negatively impacted by having second-born sisters.

These findings suggest that inventor parents could be affected by bias that leads them to treat their children differently, based on gender. “We show that behaviors that create gendered careers or professional activities start in early childhood,” says Hoisl. “Pushing women into STEM graduate degrees can help, but it might not be enough to eliminate the gender gap in inventorship.”

Counteracting this bias, the researchers argue, starts with making people aware of how gender stereotypes and unconscious bias could limit their children’s opportunities.

Diversifying Faculty to Support Student Success

In December, The Education Trust, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to breaking down barriers in the American education system, released a report with a title that asks a pointed but complex question: “Faculty Diversity and Student Success Go Hand in Hand, So Why Are University Faculties So White?”

The report’s co-authors include Jinann Bitar, director of higher education research and data analytics, and Gabriel Montague, higher education research analyst, both of The Education Trust; and Lauren Ilano, senior research analyst for academic and student affairs at California State University in Los Angeles.

Inspired by studies that show that Black and Latino students are more likely to complete their college educations when they have Black and Latino professors, the researchers evaluated faculty diversity at 543 U.S. public four-year higher education institutions. For their evaluation, the team used data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System from the years 2005 and 2020.

They gave each institution a score of 0 to 100, based on factors such as the institutions faculty diversity relative to student diversity, hiring equity, tenure equity, and changes in the number of Black and Latino faculty. Schools with scores in the 90s, 80s, 70s, and 60s, received grades of A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s, respectively, and those receiving scores below 60 received F’s.

When it comes to hiring Black and Latino faculty, nearly a quarter of the institutions in the sample received F grades. At 35 institutions, all new Black faculty members were hired off the tenure track, and 50 schools hired no new Black faculty. Similarly, at 48 institutions, all new Latino faculty were hired off the tenure track, while 75 institutions hired no new Latino faculty. Schools with the largest increase in Black and Latino faculty between 2005 and 2020 were minority-serving institutions (MSIs). 

The report offers several recommendations to address the lack of faculty diversity. Academic leaders, for example, can set targets for hiring Black and Latino faculty, recruit more underrepresented students to their doctoral programs, and make their campuses more welcoming for underrepresented groups.

State policymakers can include faculty diversity in their strategic planning, rescind bans on affirmative action, and prioritize funding for institutions that serve the most Black and Latino students. Finally, federal policymakers can increase federal funding to MSIs and use executive action to support affirmative action in higher education. 

Why Employers, Community Colleges Must Partner

U.S. employers are not doing enough to help community colleges equip students with in-demand skills, according to the recently released report, “The Partnership Imperative: Community Colleges, Employers, and America’s Chronic Skills Gap.” The report is a collaboration between Harvard Business School (HBS), based in Boston, and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The project was inspired by the fact that employers cannot find enough workers with the skills they need to fill their open positions, at a time when students are coming out of community colleges unable to find suitable employment.

Only 25 percent of employers reported clearly communicating their hiring needs to educators, while more than 50 percent of business leaders could not define the skills they wanted new hires to possess.

As part of its multiyear Project on Managing the Future of Work, a team at HBS conducted background research and interviews with community college administrators and business leaders across the United States. The team then partnered with the AACC to survey educators and employees about ways to improve students’ career readiness.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Eighty percent of educators surveyed agreed with the statement, “My college is producing the work-ready graduates that employers need,” but only 62 percent of employers surveyed agreed with the statement, “Community colleges are producing the work-ready employees that my company needs.”
  • Only 11 percent of educators agreed that their local employers were willing to set hiring targets with their schools, and just 10 percent of employers offered job guarantees to students who completed community college programs.
  • Only 25 percent of employers reported clearly communicating their hiring needs to educators.
  • More than 50 percent of business leaders could not define the skills they wanted new hires to possess.

If educators and employers want to bridge this disconnect and build the workforce the country needs, the report emphasizes, they must take three steps:

  • Partner with each other to co-create college curricula that is based on giving students relevant and in-demand skills and bring real-world projects into community college courses.
  • Establish relationships with each other in which employers make commitments to recruit and hire graduates from local community colleges.
  • Collect and share data on the local supply and demand for talent, so that employers and community colleges can build better mechanisms to improve the talent pipeline.

“The current state of collaboration is failing to meet today’s business needs and putting future competitiveness and prosperity at risk,” says Joe Fuller, a professor of management practice at HBS and Project co-chair. “‘The Partnership Imperative’ is a wake-up call for community college leaders and business executives to fix what’s broken and ensure better outcomes for students.”

Reporters’ Jobs Are Safe From AI—for Now

Artificial intelligence (AI) now can can produce fiction, poetry, and even computer code that can be nearly impossible to distinguish from content generated by people. As a result, media organizations are more frequently using AI to produce news and other content. But do people perceive articles written by AI and those written by humans in the same way?

This question is explored in a study published earlier this year in by FAccT ’22: 2022 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency. The study’s four co-authors include Chiara Longoni and Andrey Fradkin of the Boston University Questrom School of Business; Luca Cian of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in Charlottesville; and Gordon Pennycook of the Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina in Canada.

The team conducted two experiments involving more than 4,000 participants in the U.S., representing different age groups, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and geographic regions. The researchers presented participants with news headlines related to the COVID-19 pandemic, each tagged as either AI-generated or human-generated.

Of these headlines, participants were more likely to rate AI-generated headlines as inaccurate—even when those headlines were factual. Participants also noted that they trusted AI reporters less than human reporters.

This topic is becoming more relevant, the researchers emphasize, now that major media outlets have created platforms that post automatically generated reports on financial markets, crime, sports events, politics, and foreign affairs. The team points to content generators such as The Washington Post’s Heliograf, Bloomberg’s Cyborg, and Reuters’ Lynx as examples. 

These findings suggest that “calls for transparency in the use of AI may backfire” and only worsen public distrust in the media, the researchers write. However, they add, “this implication may hinge on the assumption that the public views a human reporter as the default. If this assumption were to shift, and the public started viewing AI as the default reporter, disclosing [the] use of AI may have beneficial effects on trust.”

Research Headlines

Researchers work to balance facts and free speech. Four professors at Boston University (BU) have been awarded a 550,000 USD grant by the U.S. National Science Foundation. They will use the funds to find ways to minimize the harmful impact of disinformation while protecting free speech.

The team includes lead researcher Marshall Van Alstyne, Questrom Professor in Management and a professor of information systems, and Nina Mazar, Questrom Professor of Marketing, both of BU’s Questrom School of Management; Ran Canetti, professor of computer science and director of BU’s Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security (RISCS); and Mayank Varia, associate professor of computing and data sciences and co-director of RISCS.

Researchers will use a 550,000 USD grant to find ways to minimize the harmful impact of disinformation while protecting free speech.

In an effort to find ways for free speech and fact-driven information to reliably co-exist, the researchers will focus on four areas. First, they plan to develop, prototype, and test market mechanisms that would discourage individuals and organizations from spreading false claims. Second, they will look for ways to counteract existing incentives that make it more lucrative to spread false claims than to share fact-based information.

Third, they will seek to decentralize systems of governance, so that no single public or private entity has the authority to moderate content. Finally, they will recommend fair and principled ways to update internet and media law regarding whether platforms should be held liable for user-generated content.

Exeter strives to create “business-aware” academics. The University of Exeter in the United Kingdom has received 5 million EUR (nearly 5.3 million USD) from the Research England arm of UK Research and Innovation. The university will use the funds to make postgraduate and early-career researchers (ECRs) more aware of the advantages of and opportunities for collaborating with businesses.

Supported by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS), Exeter will develop partnerships among universities across the U.K. The partners will focus on four workstreams. The first will involve research into what already exists to connect academics and business and what methods are effective. The second will develop programs at business schools across the U.K. to help postgraduate and ECRs develop the competencies and mindsets to identify business opportunities and engage effectively with external organizations.

The third workstream will provide postgraduates and ECRs more multidisciplinary network opportunities and pathways to find employment in business research and development. The fourth will be a campaign that champions the advantages of enhanced academic/industry collaboration to researchers and business leaders.

The project aims to ensure that the expertise of academics “has a wider impact beyond the confines of universities,” says Alison Truelove, project lead and director of the Centre for Innovation in Business Education at the business school. Ultimately, the goal is “to tackle future challenges and opportunities through strong partnerships and collaboration,” says Alexandra Gerbasi, dean of the University of Exeter Business School and a deputy pro-vice chancellor at the university.

In addition to supporting the initial effort, Chartered ABS plans to engage a wider range of business partners. So far, Chartered ABS has involved companies such as GSK, a global pharmaceutical company, and the Pennon Group, an environmental utility infrastructure company. It also has brought in the National Centre for Universities; the British Academy of Management; and ScaleUp Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to helping new businesses grow.

Send press releases, links to studies, PDFs, or other relevant information regarding new and forthcoming research, grants, initiatives, and projects underway to AACSB Insights at [email protected].

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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