Sunday, April 26, 2009

In extreme circumstances, the assailants can be stopped by removing the head or destroying the brain

Fellow Smoker, FM, drew my attention to a new study in the most recent APA proceedings from the Committee on the Status of Women. It looks at the tenure-track hires from the 2007-8 job season and lists these key conclusions (and others that are also interesting):
  • Up to 40% of advertised positions in 2007-8 did not fill
  • Women were hired in all categories in proportion to their percentage of PhDs (this includes temporary positions and postdocs, tenure-track positions and positions in Leiter-ranked departments)
  • If women PhDs are regularly being hired in proportion to their numbers, and retained at the same rate as men, we should see a rise in their numbers in the profession to 28% (their numbers are around 21%).
  • The percentage of women in philosophy is at a noteworthy point. The number of women PhD’s is above 25% (which is the “tipping point” for gender schemas, see Valian 1998) but the number of women employed in the profession is below 25%.
A few points and one hope. First, the hope that I have for this study is that it helps score some head shots against those zombie lies (dealt with deftly here, here, and here) that pop up every year about all the cushy jobs that under-qualified women are landing at the expense of poor, over-qualified white men.

Second, the numbers themselves regarding woman hires aren't as bad as you'd expect. Women are being hired in proportion to the number pursuing Ph.Ds. And while there is obviously some work to be done with retaining women so their numbers in the profession catch up to the numbers pursuing Ph.Ds, these findings are encouraging.

Third, as noted in the report, the APA doesn't seem to keep track of any of these numbers. Why not? Why did the authors of the study have to rely on blog posts and other means for their data when this is clearly something the APA should be keeping track of?

As fellow Smoker and longtime friend S points out: "Not keeping track of the data is a sure sign that an organization or institution's not committed to fixing whatever problem you want the data about." Damn straight. No matter how many committees or reports are commissioned, having this data is key to tackling these issues. Gathering and making such data available is something we should expect from a professional organization.

Fourth, what is the significance of the fact that 40% of jobs advertised weren't filled? I mean, you'd figure with all the over-qualified white men with scary CVs getting snubbed for tenure-track positions in favor of less-qualified women or minorities, this figure would be lower. But, less snarkily and more seriously, why is this number so (seemingly) high; is there an obvious explanation, or is it convoluted?



Mr. Zero said...

1. Thanks.

2. I don't see why we keep the APA around. We should get a new one.

3. I would imagine that the 40% unfilled statistic is due to the economic meltdown. Lots of searches were cancelled.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

The 2007-8 hiring season was largely before the meltdown, wasn't it? I didn't hear of searches getting canceled on that basis 'til the 2008-9 season.

Mr. Zero said...

oops. Misread it. Strike #3. IDK.

Anonymous said...

First, the hope that I have for this study is that it helps score some head shots against those zombie lies (dealt with deftly here, here, and here) that pop up every year about all the cushy jobs that under-qualified women are landing at the expense of poor, over-qualified white men.Unfortunately, I doubt this will be the case. Perhaps it will refocus the zombie lie, however. I've always thought the heart of the matter was the (unjustified) belief that the women on the job market simply are not as good, on average, as the men. If this were the case (I'm certainly not saying it is) then the proportional hiring stat you cite won't kill it.

Why do many think that the women on the market are less qualified? In order of prominence, I'd say:

1) Viewing typical "female" personality traits, such as a perceived conversational submissiveness, as evidence of a poor philosopher.

2) A feeling that women were given preferential treatment in grad school admissions.

3) General prejudice against the idea that women can think "rationally".

4) A certain LEMMing elitism that looks down on normative, historical, and social branches of philosophy. (There are significantly fewer female LEMMings, by percentage, though there are many very good ones)

In short: A head shot isn't enough. You'll have to kill it with fire.

Anonymous said...

The Haslinger piece gave me plenty to think about, but I can't agree with all of it.

I have a contentious, some might say insensitive, personality. I remember being pulled aside in high school from my English class and being told that I should tone it down because I was intimidating the other students. I imagine I was and understand better now the teacher's perspective. But at the time there was this authority figure telling me to basically stfu, when I thought I was just stating my views as persuasively as I could.

I like to argue, especially about controversial subjects. That's part of why I got into philosophy. I don't think that the norms of discourse in philosophy need to be shared throughout the humanities. Literary criticism, rhetoric, etc. may be and are conducted less combatively. I don't even mind being "ghettoized" within the academy. But am I really to be taken out into the hall and told to stfu again? I thought I'd found a place where it was cool not to worry about all that.

Also, I know plenty of women that share my personality type and preferences. If philosophical norms of discourse are "hyper-masculine" then so are they. Is there really to be no place whatsoever in the humanities for us nerdy, obsessive, combative personality types (male and female alike)?

Eric said...

I think the 40% of unfilled positions has to due with the silly complexities of the hiring process. There is a limited budget for a position search. While a position may have hundreds of applicants, with dozens that are well-qualified and actually want the job, in many cases only 2-4 candidates (the flyout candidates) have a genuine opportunity to land the job.

Consider this common scenario: you only have a budget to bring 3 candidates to campus.
One utterly fails the interview and is unacceptable to the committee
The preferred candidate is offered the job, but ultimately takes a better job after weeks of negotiations
The third candidate has already taken a job by the time the SC gets around to offering it to her (possibly at a school he was less interested in).

In many cases the administration will say 'tough', the search budget is gone, we can't do any more flyouts and the position will go unfilled.

This type of scenario happens all the time. Especially, for less desirable jobs.

For the SC, the most important decision is whom to invite to campus. You want ALL of your interviewees to be acceptable candidates who actually want the job. But, it is difficult to decide whom to bring on campus... do you want to pursue the 'great' candidate from the top school who probably prefers a 2/2 research job? or do you invite someone less perfect who actually seems like he/she wants the job, but might self-destruct during the campus interview? The scenario I described also makes a good case for doing on-campus interviews and making offers as early in the year as possible.

There has to be a better way to do this...

Anonymous said...

"(13%) are known to have resulted in no hire "

The 40% figure is the highest possible figure, since it includes searches for which there was no hire and searches for which we have not data.

I find the two key finding to be these:

# There is little, if any, attrition of women between undergraduate majors and PhD graduates.
# Women were hired in all categories in proportion to their percentage of PhDs (this includes temporary positions and postdocs, tenure-track positions and positions in Leiter-ranked departments)

These two findings should put to rest a number of silly and unsubstantiated claims on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the data really incomplete? I mean 84 TT jobs (listed in the JFP) or 23% had no data. Until there is more complete data collection, I don't think we can claim much more here. What if the vast majority of those jobs went to men (or women)? That would change the results, no? Plus, the JFP isn't the only place jobs are listed. Too little accurate data for drawing substantive conclusions! It's not as bad as blog comments counting, but it feels pretty close.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit off-topic, but (I think related):

Have any other female philosophers experienced blatant sexism/sexual harassment while on the job market?

I had some bad experiences this year and I can't help but wonder if the kind of sexism I experienced relates to attrition of women in the field.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:03 - Seriously? A thing you value about philosophy is that it allows you to be rude? I would say that (a) there are far more important aspects to pursuing philosophy that ought to be the focus of anyone who is thinking about devoting his or her life to this discipline, and (b) that just because you choose a certain line of work doesn't make you immune to basic norms of etiquette.

Only slightly joking, even engineers and mathematicians are better than this.

Bobcat said...

"the hope that I have for this study is that it helps score some head shots against those zombie lies...that pop up every year about all the cushy jobs that under-qualified women are landing at the expense of poor, over-qualified white men."

That's not going to happen, as you know. Were I a zombie, I would groan the following, after my perfunctory mention of brains: "Alright, so women Ph.D.s are hired in Leiter-ranked and non-Leiter-ranked jobs in proportion to their numbers in graduate school. That said, this statistic still leaves out a lot of important information necessary for determining whether women have an easier time of it _getting interviews._ Moreover, there is still the question of how many publications the average female candidate has in relation to the average male candidate, the comparative strength of her recommendation letters, etc." Of course, the zombie fails to mention other factors that might make it harder for women Ph.D.s, such as the sexism they experience in the workplace and in society at large. But the zombie is generally attuned only to certain details and not others.

[You can delete this comment if you fear it will restart the zombie wars.]

Bobcat said...

I forgot to add the caveat that I don't think the zombie is right that women get more interviews, etc.; just that that one statistic doesn't itself refute that contention.

[Again, delete this comment if the first one wasn't accepted.]

Anonymous said...

"anon 12:03 - Seriously? A thing you value about philosophy is that it allows you to be rude?"

I don't believe I said that, though I guess I see how you could take that from my post. Anyhow the fact that you feel free to agressively, though probatively, strawman my post tells in favor of my point. It's ok. I've got thick skin and rather enjoy this sort of thing. ;-)

Anonymous said...

95% of people who unprompted report having a thick skin do not in fact have thick skins.

67% of people who report enjoying this sort of thing do not in fact enjoy that sort of thing.

Claims made by 83% of people who non-ironically employ emoticons post-1999 have 77% greater chance of being wholly uninteresting.

Anonymous said...

In case no one has noticed yet, the APA will not be publishing a May edition of JFP. No surprise there. Game over.

Mr. Zero said...

I'm not saying this is true of you, anon 12:03, but when people are willing to admit that "some might say" they are "insensitive," that usually means that they are actually much, much more than merely insensitive. And just thinking about what it would take for me to pull a student aside and tell him/her to "tone it down" because s/he was "intimidating the other students," the person would have to be a really incredibly aggressive, impolite jerk. But maybe I have a long fuse.

I'm not saying you are an impolite jerk, but you describe yourself in a way that sort of suggests, in a Gricean kind of way, that you are an impolite jerk. That's what 7:43 was responding to--it wasn't a straw man. And if your English teacher is anything like me, you really should tone it down. A lot.

Anonymous said...

I think Eric raises many good points about why many jobs go unfilled. And the "search canceled for budgetary reasons" phenomenon did occur in 2007-8, at least in one case I'm aware of. More generally, it's non-trivial to hire a TT person who doesn't work out. A lot of schools would rather not hire than hire the wrong person, and it's not always easy to get the right person in the door.

The proportional hiring of women suggests, I think, that the forces of sexism and affirmative action are, in the aggregate, "netting out", at least at the TT hiring phase. This is perhaps the best we can hope for at this point. But both forces are real. The zombie "lies" aren't always lies in individual cases -- no more than reports of sexism or sexual harassment. In fact, if you think about it, you can't have it both ways. If hiring is proportional, and if you believe individual reports of discrimination against women (I do), then you have to explain the proportional hiring somehow. The natural explanation is that affirmative action is at work in other cases, balancing out the discrimination at the aggregate level. This is a horrible state of affairs, but better than what used to occur, before AA, when there was no counter-weight to the sexism.