Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interviewing while female


I recently underwent diversity training at my university. Good times. Part of the course materials included a paper on gender bias in hiring, which contained a list of recommendations for institutions (for avoiding bias in hiring decisions), but also included the following evidence-based recommendations for women seeking employment (to help them counteract bias and implicit bias in hiring decisions). As we often get questions on the blog about things like interview attire, family status issues, etc., this seemed pretty relevant as we approach the interview season. (My posting of these recommendations should not be construed as an endorsement of any of them. I can't say that I ever did any of these things, at least not consciously. If you're interested in the reasons for the recs, read the article.)
Recommendations for female applicants
● Provide some evidence of communal job-relevant behaviors (e.g., being helpful and sensitive to the needs of subordinates)
● Indicate clear evidence of competency (e.g., resume, third-party endorsements) but avoid appearing self-promoting in an interview
● Do not show anger or discuss previous job-related situations that made you angry
● Best to avoid feminine-scented perfume, but wearing masculine-scented perfume may be beneficial (although you would need to pretest the scent to ensure that it is considered “masculine”)
● Avoid revealing parenthood status until job and salary are secured
● In your initial application, if you have a female-gendered first name, consider using initials only, and if you have a gender-ambiguous name, consider removing gender-identifying information
● Strive for an “attractive” but neutral appearance for interviews or application photographs. Avoid interviewing in overly feminine clothing (more masculine clothing and facial features may be beneficial)
● If you are visibly pregnant, it might be wise to obscure it with your clothing
● Avoid tentative speech patterns (e.g., use of intensifiers such as “really” and “definitely,” hedges such as “I guess” or “sort of,” and hesitations such as “well” or “let’s see”)
("Interventions That Affect Gender Bias in Hiring: A Systematic Review." Carol Isaac, PhD, PT, Barbara Lee, PhD, and Molly Carnes, MD, MS Academic Medicine, Vol. 84, No. 10 / October 2009)

These are basically about countering implicit and unconscious bias -- bias the discriminator doesn't even recognize as bias -- and many of them are common sense. Probably best to avoid ranting about your previous scumbag employer, although apparently, that goes double for women. The issue of self-promotion, and avoiding it if you're a woman, clearly points to a double standard. Talking about your work in a non-self-promoting way in a job interview is going to require some real verbal finesse. Hiding an advanced pregnancy would be pretty hard for a lot of women. Some of this advice seems, on the face of it, kind of offensive. You might well ask yourself why women should have to hide a pregnancy or wear "masculine" perfume (AXE body spray anyone?). (Although if you ask me, just don't wear perfume. That goes for you guys too.) But again, this is about getting past implicit bias.

And I'll tell ya. The interactions with others in the diversity workshop revealed a level of ignorance about gender bias, and what constitutes bias, and what is legally permitted in interviews that was pretty eye-opening. You might think that people actually taking a workshop on diversity would not publicly say crazy shit that is discriminatory, sexist, and racist, but they do, and I'm going to guess that it's because -- despite efforts to re-educate them -- they just don't know better. Which is just to say that sexism is alive and well in academe, and forewarned is forearmed. Some of this advice probably applies equally well to minority candidates (use initials if you have an "ethnic-sounding" name, don't show anger, etc.). I have not been able to find comparable practical recommendations for countering racial bias, but I'll post it if I do.

~zombie


74 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm comforted knowing that people are hard at work putting together a list of recommendations to help women overcome biases men will unconsciously hold against them. It's about damn time someone started making women responsible for sexism.

I'm even more comforted knowing that some of these recommendations boil down to some version of "be like a man." Sexism just might disappear if women would simply stop insisting on being women.

Anonymous said...

These are horrifying perpetuations of stereotypes that left me aghast that anyone with half a brain would seriously offer. It's like a list to inform slaves on how to get in good with massah. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

There is good evidence that saying a woman is "communal" will be held against her. I will hunt down the reference.

Anonymous said...

"Avoid interviewing in overly feminine clothing (more masculine clothing and facial features may be beneficial)"

What?!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what the problem it. Stereotypes exist - that is a fact. The question then is how to avoid being negatively stereotyped when applying for a job. Why be aghast at that?

Ben said...

Sounds to me as if interviewing while female is a bad idea. Best wait until the condition passes.

More seriously, I'm not sure about going by initials only, unless that's how you're usually known (e.g. on publications). I was recently discussing academia.edu with some friends and someone suggested (rightly, I take it) that it's an advantage to be known - that is, for a search committee to perhaps recognise your name, even if they can't place where from (a publication, a conference, etc).

If you go by initials, there's a danger that your name won't be recognised - unless of course they know you so well that they already know your sex anyway. I suppose a lot depends on how distinctive your surname is though.

Anonymous said...

4:53 - The problem is that these recommendations place the burden of avoiding those stereotypes on the victims of those stereotypes, when the existence of those stereotypes is not their fault. They have to do extra work to compensate for other people's failings. That may be "the way it is" but all that shows is that "the way it is" sucks.

Anonymous said...

Enough with this stereotypes exist, get used to it crap. I know the empirical lit on implicit bias too, but I don't conclude that because we are cognitively required or disposed to have some bias, this entails anything about the justification for the content of the current ones or that there is nothing to be done about them. I mean, they got there somehow right? If they're socially constructed, then manipulate that, fuck. If you're going to say they're not, good luck to you in your quest for survival.

Besides, the implicit bias stuff is nothing new anyhow for anyone who knows anything about philosophy of mind or science, right? It's old news. The only news here is that those studies seem to give racists or sexists the idea that somehow what they do is OK since there's now a legit SCIENTIFIC study.

The way some philosophers, or at least some contributors to this blog, interpret these facts is extremely disappointing and shows a complete lack of ability to engage critically with scientific literature, or at least when it comes to their own racist or sexist biases. Go re-read your Quine and take a fucking critical thinking course, AGAIN.

Anonymous said...


http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/so-youre-biased/

Anonymous said...

"overcome biases men will unconsciously hold against them"

It is important to note that unconscious bias is not limited by sex -- female interviewers are also afflicted by implicit bias against female applicants. If we pretend that implicit bias is another "us against them" issue, we'll never wholly recognize and counteract its effects.

Anonymous said...

The way it is does suck, but the article doesn't place any burdens anywhere. It just points out what burdens there are.
Don't blame the messenger.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:44: I think this is common knowledge. As a woman prepping for possible interviews, I'm grateful to hear some recommendations about how to navigate gender bias on the job market. When I have job security I'll protest the system, but for now I'm going to do my damnedest to game it.

Anonymous said...

So what happens once SCs receive scads of applications from people who are using initials only? Could it be that all these applicants are, well, female-gendered? I don't see how this solves anything. It's just like back in the day, when there used to be phone books, and women thought they could deter predators by listing themselves initials-only.
In general, this is ridiculously offensive advice. Are we really living in the 21st century?

Anonymous said...

6:44 Writes:

"4:53 - The problem is that these recommendations place the burden of avoiding those stereotypes on the victims of those stereotypes, when the existence of those stereotypes is not their fault. They have to do extra work to compensate for other people's failings. That may be "the way it is" but all that shows is that "the way it is" sucks."

From my vantage, this way of framing the debate elides an important part of your opponent's point--s/he disagrees with you about what's going on here, and about just what sucks. The charge is not "life sucks, get used to it." Instead it's something like "this is how grown-ups act, get used to it."

I think the first couple of posts in this thread summed up the situation fairly well. Disregarding the nonsense of plumping for masculine facial features (good luck, ladies!), the substance of this recommendation is, basically, to be a decent human, exhibit familiarity with your work and an ability to talk about it without coming off like a jerk, and act like a professional.


And 6:56 has gone off the rails. Anyone who's come away with that reading of this discussion isn't talking about this discussion.

Frank O'File said...

I recommend wearing a fake beard.

zombie said...

7:06 is right. The lit on implicit bias is quite clear that women are biased in precisely the same ways that men are w/r/t women applicants. This is, no doubt, a product of socialization. But the point of these recommendations is that an applicant cannot go into an interview and actually eliminate the biases -- because the interviewers don't know they HAVE these biases. That's what makes them implicit.

And, as noted in the original post, the article also contained extensive recommendations for interviewers on diminishing the effects of their own implicit biases. That information would certainly be relevant to readers of this blog who sit on SCs, but this thread was directed towards job candidates, FWIW.

zombie said...

"Avoid interviewing in overly feminine clothing (more masculine clothing and facial features may be beneficial)"

Pretty clearly, this means letting your unibrow grow out, and don't bleach that lip hair!

http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/frida6.jpg

Anonymous said...

"a woman who has a head full of greek... or carries on fundamental controversies about mechanics... might as well even have a beard; for perhaps that would express more obviously the mien of profundity for which she strives."
-kant, observations on the beautiful and the sublime

so basically kant's got you covered on that one, frank o'file.

Anonymous said...

There's a delicate line between advice that is helpful, and advice that puts the onus for change on the victim of the problem. While some of the advice here is good, some of it is quite useless, and useless advice strays towards that line. Suppose I'm a female philosopher with long hair, feminine features, a CV which shows I am accomplished, and I'm visibly pregnant. To best counter implicit bias I should:
1) Get a short hair cut.
2) Widen my jawline. Invest in a moustache. (?)
3) Downplay my accomplishments as my competitors play up theirs, even as there is also research that shows that women tend to do this and so undercut themselves.
4) Wear a small tent to the interview, so that they think I am badly dressed rather than with child.

Well, okay then.

The thing is that there's a version of this advice that's not offensive, but this is like someone took a list of findings on implicit bias and converted them into guidelines without thinking about whether they were reasonable in practice. E.g., I'm sure there is research that says that particularly feminine women fare worse in certain jobs, but that only translates as advice about your facial features is you're nuts.

Anonymous said...

I don't get some of you people. No-one here is denying that it sucks that the burden lies on the victim to minimize the biases that occur during interviews. But that doesn't change the fact that nevertheless there -are- things that can be done by the victim to minimize those biases in the context of an interview. If you decide that rather than stoop so low you would rather try to change deep psychological facts about the human mind that have likely been with us since the dawn of time, then go for it. But some people just want to get a job, and are not assholes for aiming so low.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:10, I sincerely don't understand who here you think is claiming that anyone is an asshole for "stooping so low" as you put it. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but as I see it, none of the criticism here is directed at people who may choose to follow the advice here. Those who are aghast are, I believe, aghast at the reality that heeding this advice is necessary/advantageous, not that one would choose to do so.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's clear you don't get some of us 3:10. For some of us reject that whole narrative.

Whatever substantive advice there was in the OP was advice to act like a professional. Having short hair and not being pregnant doesn't make you a professional. Having a grown-up sense of your place in the world, exhibiting competence in your field, and showing yourself to be a responsible member of the community make you a professional. Anyone who thinks that's sexist is confusing advice on how to be an adult with bias against females. I know plenty of male philosophers who need to learn this lesson--sex has nothing to do with it.

Philosophers are some of the most self-entitled people around. It really is ugly at points.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman, and have been on the market multiple years. There are several problems with trying to follow this advice (besides the obvious 'problem' of not being able to make myself male). First, it devolves into no-win contradictions. As 11:37 points out, women are *also* badly regarded when we don't brag about our accomplishments or engage in other stereotypically masculine behaviors. Similarly, there's research that shows that women who don't look or act "feminine" enough end up paying for that, too--there was even a Smoker thread 2 or 3 years ago in which some folks argued that women shouldn't wear pantsuits at all because the attempt at masculinity seemed threatening, a la Hillary Clinton. There's no good way to play this game--the majority of the advice boils down to "try not to remind them that you're a woman," which is a losing battle, and a pretty fucking shitty one to put yourself through, at that.

The other problem here is that even if you manage to be successful at getting a job by walking this magical and elusive tightrope of feminine-but-not-too-feminine, what is your life going to be like in such a department? Will you have to keep up the constant tightrope act until you get tenure? That sounds like a miserable way to live, and I just refuse to do it anymore.

2 years ago, I got a job in a department where I was the only woman. I followed all the rules as much as I could, and I wore my pantsuit, and I tried my best to change my tentative speech patterns and all that crap. But I couldn't keep that stuff up once I started work--and I didn't want to, because it wasn't me. Only now, I was working in a place where (as it turned out) I was miserable, because of the horrible environment for women. I went back on the market because I wasn't willing to put myself through that day in and day out.

Of course I know that financial situations can make doing anything and everything to get just *any* job available sound reasonable. But I'd caution that if a department is the sort of place where people are working with enough unchecked bias to make these kinds of steps necessary to get through the interview process, you might not want to work there.

Anonymous said...

The default of the recs here is to be reactive and presume a biased situation. As if all committee situations were the same. That's utter crap. You cannot control the committee--you can ony control yourself. Be yourself--dress as you think professionals should, do not disguise who you are because that will semme phony, just be pregnant or present with tics or anything else--be your best authentic self. Pretense leaks through one way or another. I'm 9:24, I'm white, I'm male, and I'm old--but I'm not stupid. Playing to implicit bias by some sort of role-playing easily could self-destruct in appearing inauthentic. Believe it or not even old stupid farts like me actually believe that anyone deserves to be treated as they present themselves. Be strong if you can, confident, who you are, don't don any mask you think you ought wear. Jobs aren't mostly given to Academy Award winners--they are largely given to real people being themselves. If you think playing the system is more important than being who you are, then I feel sorry for you, and I do not want you as a colleague.

young fart said...

1. I am pretty sure that "self-entitled" doesn't mean anything.

2. Women who take implicit bias into account when deciding how to dress (etc.) are not "playing the system", and old farts who think that's what they're doing may not be especially sexist but they are especially clueless.

Anonymous said...

I'm really beginning to think that some of the people most convinced by the implicit bias literature are some of the people least familiar with a functioning, well-run professional community. They've got a set of lenses they think they're going to use to figure it all out, but what they need to do, as 6:56 says, is to present themselves authentically, warts and all. Put yourself together and have an adult conversation about your work and the job offer. Give us some sense of what sort of character you have. And try not to come off like a jerk or a spoiled little brat.

Anonymous said...

When friends visit me in New York, I tell them to put their wallets in their front pockets before they get on the subway. Is this putting the 'burden' of pickpocketing unfairly on them?

zombie said...

The thing about implicit bias is that it is unconscious. Those who have implicit biases do not know that they do. Hence, women are as likely as men to be influenced by implicit biases, and have the SAME biases. Moreover, even people who honestly deny that they are racist or sexist exhibit implicit biases in particular situations.

So it is all well and good to argue that it is phony or "playing the system" to go to an interview and not be fully and authentically yourself (whatever that is). (As if anyone ever does that!) But that's kind of missing the point. The point is that a woman can behave professionally, and still be judged differently than a similarly qualified man, not by people who are consciously and unapologetically sexist (although there are surely some of them out there), but by people who do not know how implicit bias influences their judgments.

Anonymous said...

7:14,

"To be self-entitled is to be in a state of supposing one can write one's own checks--whether intellectually, in one's social relations, or in pet principles--without having to bother with others' charges against those entitlements. There are only a handful of domains, most concerning personal and social identity, for which self-entitlement suffices to warrant a person in a position. It is part of the pathology of the young American mind, a sentiment brewing throughout the second half of the 20th century and now seemingly poured into every hipster's coffee cup, that we are all self-entitled about all sorts of things."

Garner's Dictionary

Anonymous said...

This does suck, but I feel like these biases are changing. At a recent conference I attended, over half of the philosophers were women (including the organizers) and it wasn't a conference on feminism. One of the older female participants commented how many of the younger scholars were wearing make-up, styling their hair, and wearing more feminine clothing -- which she thought was a positive change, because her experience as a young scholar was very different. She said female philosophers avoided make-up and tried to dress as masculine as possible when she was a young philosopher. Perhaps these biases are dying.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the trouble with the list of advice, which purports to be evidence-based, is that it musters no evidence that the advised actions actually do anything to counteract unconscious biases. But perhaps there is evidence of this? It's one thing to say "here are things that are held against you; thus, try to minimize them." But minimizing is not a neutral or negative act. I think that's why it read so oddly to me -- it simplifies the issue of effective response.

Anonymous said...

I'm really beginning to think that some of the people most convinced by the implicit bias literature are some of the people least familiar with a functioning, well-run professional community.

It would be surprising if that were true. The people most convinced by the implicit bias literature are the people who are convinced by science. Is it really true that people familiar with a "functioning, well-run professional community" are not convinced by science?

Anonymous said...

8:09, no, because that advice is likely to help. Similarly, telling a young woman to dress relatively conservatively for an interview and to avoid passive sentence constructions is good advice.

But if you were to tell your friends to dye their hair Romney-style and wearing aging stage makeup because "studies show that younger men are more likely to be the targets of street violence", we'd probably think that you were taking the findings of the study in an unhelpful direction. And that's the problem with the advice.

It looks to me that the recommendations were made in the following way:
1) Studies show that X is often a factor in implicit bias;
2) Therefore, women should avoid doing X,

with no thought as to whether X makes any sense as a recommendation for an interview, or whether it's possible. It is certainly good advice in many corporate interviews not to discuss family or spouses. But on a two-day campus visit when the small department is desperately worried about fit with someone who has to move across the country to a small town with no one to date?
Much harder to say.

Likewise, it is good to be aware that mentioning one's accomplishments is more easily perceived as bragging when the mentioner is female; but to tell a young woman that her accomplishments are a liability in a job interview is downright toxic, given research that says that women tend to sell themselves short.

I know that no one is endorsing these views, but bad advice is bad advice. (The pregnancy one still boggles my mind. Someone who is visibly pregnant in December is going to be more visibly pregnant during campus visits. I guess she could wear a coat for three days and try to pass it off as a quirk.)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, 7:16.

SLAC-er said...

I have no objection to actions (on the parts of those who are put in a disempowered position by implicit bias) aimed at overcoming that implicit bias. That's just prudent.

But don't forget that there are also active and significant (even if not formalized) pressures on many (if not most) departments to hire women and minorities. Hiring committees will do their best to include women in their short lists, if only to convince deans and provosts that they are not systematically excluding under-represented groups. So, attempting to conceal one's status in an effort to avoid implicit bias will have the contrary effect of not allowing SCs to work affirmatively in one's favor.

If anyone knows a way to balance these factors properly, that would be really useful information.

Anecdote: When I was on the market, I called a friend on a hiring committee (at a school at which I would have loved to work) and mentioned that he should keep his eyes open for my application. He said, "Tell me, have you turned into an African-American woman since we last saw each other? Because if not, we're not going to interview you."

Of course, the situation, once one gets to the interview stage, is totally different.

Anonymous said...

Anecdote: When I was on the market, I called a friend on a hiring committee (at a school at which I would have loved to work) and mentioned that he should keep his eyes open for my application. He said, "Tell me, have you turned into an African-American woman since we last saw each other? Because if not, we're not going to interview you."

You and your friend are both unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

"You and your friend are both unbelievable."

Huh. I believe both SLAC-er and SLAC-er's friend.

The SC's I've been on were nowhere near that blunt or exclusive, but all else being remotely equal, we would have given the nod to the candidate from an underrepresented group.

Anonymous said...

9:23, not at all.

I believe that the friend's search committee only interviewed African-American women that year. I bet that happens a lot in philosophy. This year I predict you'll hardly be able to walk around at the smoker because African-American women will be clogging the aisles between the tables.

I might even start a portfolio.

Anonymous said...

It is certainly good advice in many corporate interviews not to discuss family or spouses. But on a two-day campus visit when the small department is desperately worried about fit with someone who has to move across the country to a small town with no one to date?

Not attacking you, Anon 7:16; I get you are not endorsing the advice, but I wanted to point out that this illustrates what is so pernicious about concerns over "fit" Schools are not supposed to be asking for or taking this sort of information into account when hiring in the first place, but since some committees think they are exempt from anti-discrimination laws, candidates are put in the position of trying to figure out if they will benefit from disclosure or not.

In your example, the committee is worried that an unmarried person won't fit because he or she won't find anyone to date in the small town, and so it would benefit the candidate to reassure them by mentioning being married. But they could have the same worry that a candidate won't find someone to date if they are not straight, and I take it that it is obvious they shouldn't be reluctant to hire LGBT candidates on those grounds, that LGBT candidates shouldn't have to lie to stand the same chance as straight candidates, and that straight candidates shouldn't seek to reassure the committee by emphasizing their heterosexuality.

Maybe a single candidate or a gay candidate will be unhappy and leave, but so what? So long as people are free to pursue their careers and their happiness, there will be a risk that employees will leave for greener pastures, and "fit" concerns need to be realistic in light of that. And that isn't even to touch their moral and legal obligations not to seek this sort of information or use it in their hiring decisions in the first place!

Anonymous said...

10:52, that's a good point, and of course, I wouldn't endorse committees using such pernicious standards. My problem is with blanket advice that says *who you are* is a liability; first, it isn't in every situation, so one might be giving someone bad advice; and second, reifying the idea that the default candidate is a white guy with a trailing spouse in a non-threatening support career, and anything else is a deviation that must be hidden, is a bad thing to do (for the reasons you mention.)

There's also the risk of stereotype threat. I can't imagine anything worse to do to a petite female graduate student's confidence than to tell her that she'd do better if she had masculine features as advice. Tall men tend to do better in interviews than short men, yet oddly I never see advice to men going to the APA to wear lifts.

zombie said...

I doubt the intention of the advice was to tell women that if they cannot do ALL of the recommended things, they should throw in the towel. Given what you've got to work with, and given the possibility of implicit bias, take advantage of available mechanisms that might help you. Can't change the fact that you're petite and feminine? You CAN change the way you dress for an interview, you CAN avoid certain scents, etc. Can't hide your pregnancy? Then don't bother. But you can dress for the interview, avoid certain scents, etc.

And while it may have an effect on a woman's confidence to inform her that she has to contend with implicit bias (not just explicit bias) when looking for a job, it may be more damaging for her to not know. It strikes me as pretty paternalistic to try to protect someone's feelings (or fragile sense of confidence) if by doing so, you remove the possibility that she can be proactive in a self-beneficial way. I'd rather have information I can act on to empower myself than be "protected" by someone who fears for my self-confidence.

Anonymous said...

zombie, I disagree that it's paternalistic. It would be if the advice were good, but I were advocating hiding it to spare someone's feelings. I'm not advocating hiding the studies or information from their poor little fragile eyes, but rather not turning the study into bad or unfollowable advice.

For example, it has been shown that women in office environments who emphasize their accomplishments are more easily perceived as arrogant than men who do the same thing. That's a problem. But it doesn't make sense to tell someone that the right thing for her to do is to downplay her achievements in a job interview so she doesn't look arrogant (because I'd bet that she then looks nice and good with students, but not smart, and philosophers fetishize smart, even for teaching positions.) It's not paternalistic not to give someone bad advice!

I don't think there's much distance between our overall positions. I agree completely that giving someone good advice is good, even if it puts some of the burden on the applicant. So, for example, I think it is good advice to a woman to dress conservatively (no cleavage, modest heel height, no miniskirts, neutrals over bright colors), to have confidence in her accomplishments, to avoid undermining patterns of speech, and dark or dramatic makeup or strong perfume. I think it is bad advice to tell someone that it would be helpful to her career in philosophy if she looked more like man/had lighter skin (the list doesn't say this, thank the gods, but there's plenty of research on skin color bias)/wasn't fat (ditto)/a non-ethnic name/wasn't visibly pregnant, because none of that advice is terribly actionable. I think it's borderline bad advice to tell someone to pretend to be a brain on a stick with no external life, especially when this profession places a crazy amount of emphasis on fit and personality.

Our disagreement is over whether most of the advice is good advice, not over whether it is reasonable to try to minimize the effects of implicit bias or whether women should know about these studies. I agree it's reasonable; but the list here is really not that great in terms of practical advice. Your advice in comments has been worlds better, as was the advice I received from one of my committee members.

zombie said...

Fair enough. As I said in the original post, I'm not endorsing any or all of these recs. But questions have come up on this blog addressing some of the concerns addressed by these recs, particularly re: what to wear for interviews, when to reveal pregnancy, marital/family status, etc. I think these recs are a step up from mere conjecture and anecdote. Clearly some of them are not actionable for some individuals, and every woman needs to use her best judgment about how to present herself in the best light, given her particular qualities and assets.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I'm not convinced this sort of approach is all that helpful Zombie. The stereotypes it reinforces, the mindset it fosters, and the sloppiness with which the problems of bias are addressed here make me question the value of the habits this list will underwrite.

Whatever advice worth heeding there was in it would have been much better phrased in the manner of "act like a grown-up." This, from my experience, is what the overwhelming majority of young academics (and plenty of old ones!) need to learn anyway.

Instead, we get a bungled-up mass of tropes about sexism and masculinisitizamation. It should be laughed out of the fora. But instead, it's only too often lapped up by immature sycophants without a nit's sense of their place in the world. And the problems persist.

Anonymous said...

"But don't forget that there are also active and significant (even if not formalized) pressures on many (if not most) departments to hire women and minorities. Hiring committees will do their best to include women in their short lists, if only to convince deans and provosts that they are not systematically excluding under-represented groups."

Is there any evidence that programs care about these pressures? I mean, putting women on the short list is largely meaningless. Sounds more like tokenism than anything else. Is this the glass ceiling women should be proud of smashing? "Yay! We make short lists!"

Anonymous said...

Can I ask a slight derail question? This is my third year on the market and about this time of year, after reading through threads like this, I really begin to feel (legitimately not rhetorically) depressed about my life choices.

I am not a superstar philosopher. I will probably never redefine the field in any interesting ways and my publications are scant (existent, but scant). I'm terrified that I won't be able to find secure employment in the field I've spent the last 14 years preparing for and then working in. I'm even more terrified about finding work that provides a living wage outside of academia.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel stuck and unhappy and I'm asking for commiseration and guidance. What to y'all do to fight the creeping sense that "I've made a huge mistake" (picture Job from Arrested Development saying this, it's funnier)?

It was easy for Hume, he was rich and could just walk away from his melancholy, what about you? How do you get over this funk? What are your backups?

Anonymous said...

@752

Anecdotal though this may be I can guarantee you that departments do this. The last time my department ran a tenure stream hire the department drew up a short list of (surprise) all white males. The dean *required* the department to include at least one woman so an asian-american woman was included in the short list.

Naturally she did not get the job. She never stood a chance (because she had already been excluded from the short list) but she was brought in purely to please the dean. I don't know if my department is typical but take that as one data point that supports the view that the problem is real and that many efforts meant to combat it are merely token Stalinesque shows.

SLAC-er said...

. Is this the glass ceiling women should be proud of smashing? "Yay! We make short lists!"

Of course, there's nothing like gender equality in philosophy. That doesn't mean we shouldn't take steps toward it. Whether the pressures to add underrepresented minorities make actual progress or are mere tokens depends on their effects downstream.

In our latest search, women made up less than ten percent of the applicant pool and we had a lot of strong applicants. We can't overcome years of systematic, institutionalized bias with a recognition of the problem and a wave of a wand. It's important to keep the pressures up, but it's also productive to avoid making those who make sincere efforts feel as if they're failures because they haven't made the problem go away. People are easily put off of doing hard work.

Anonymous said...

Philosophy Search Committees, like the GOP, have binders full of women.

We know that no woman will chair a House subcommittee. I can only assume the binders have been lost. I'm really curious to see how many women land tenure track jobs this year. When the number os predictably small, I will only be able to conclude that qualified women are not applying, or that there aren't qualified women.

Fuck this shit.

-7:52

zombie said...

Women make up 30% of philosophy PhDs (from 2009 data), and 16.6% of full-time phil faculty (and 20.69% of part-time faculty). (http://tinyurl.com/czl37xx)

So, men are 70% of PhDs, and have 83.4% of the full-time jobs (plus 79% of the pt jobs). Either many of those women PhDs are just plain unqualified, or less qualified than men, or are not applying for jobs, or somebody has a problem hiring women. As Bill Clinton (noted friend of women that he is) said: "Arithmetic."

The arithmetic tells me that it's not women who are getting preferential treatment.

Anonymous said...

Zombie, a possibility you left out is that although *recent* hires of women are in fact proportional to the number of women getting PhDs, there is still a large overrepresentation of men among older philosophers. (The latter claim is obviously true, both because the pool of women was much smaller 30 years ago and because sexism in hiring was worse 30 years ago.)
However, I do agree with you that on the whole women are not getting preferential treatment today in philosophy. There are some small overt advantages, and many small(ish) hard-for-lots-of-men-to-notice disadvantages. I doubt the net is an advantage for women.

9:25, I believe your story, but I think what you perceive as 'tokenism' really does help in the long run. When SCs try hard to include women on their interview lists, even if it's because deans want them to, they will sometimes end up being impressed and offer one of the women a job. Part of the problem is that implicit bias keeps some women off interview lists, even when the SC is trying to be conscientious isn't overtly sexist at all.

Anonymous said...

On the pregnancy thing: I'm visibly pregnant now (December), although I could still conceal it, but I'll certainly not be able to conceal it in January or February if I'm lucky enough to get an on campus. Besides, there are other factors (avoiding alcohol etc) that would make the SC members very likely to realize, especially combined with my physical appearance.
Should I follow the advice to try to conceal the pregnancy, or would this be seen as dishonest if the realize it nonetheless?

Anonymous said...

(Congrats on the baby!)

I'm visibly pregnant, too, and I'm not going to try to conceal it. First, I don't think it's really concealable, given my frame and that my students all figured it out three weeks ago. Second, I think it's going to be important, should I get interviews, to be able to explain to the search committee frankly that I anticipate no problems or travel restrictions in January or February or early March. Better to be up front and professional about it than have them wondering, but unable to ask due regulations, whether I'd be able to take a flyout. The way I figure, the kid is on the inside at the moment and is thus conveniently portable. This is really not a big deal.

So the plan is basically to go ahead as usual -- dress conservatively, talk about my interesting research and fabulous teaching, etc. And skip the cheap beer at the smoker!

If I weren't as far along as I am, such that it wasn't visible at the APA, I probably wouldn't say anything, because there'd be no reason to. But as it stands, that's not the case, and I'm not going to act as if I've done something shameful or unbecoming a philosopher. It's 2012.

zombie said...

7:58 touches on something that an SC might legitimately worry about, which is whether or not a candidate would be able to fly for a campus visit. If you plan not to hide your pregnancy, I think she's right to want to be able to tell the SC that she will be able to fly.

Would it be dishonest to conceal your pregnancy now, if it will be obvious later? Why would it be? Say you're a candidate with a pregnant spouse, and said spouse will be having that baby before you begin any new job that might be offered. Would it be dishonest for you to fail to mention that fact?

The point of concealment is to avoid triggering the implicit biases that would make the SC set your candidacy aside. Once you've gotten past the first round, and made it to the flyout stage, you've accomplished that (for the most part), because they've considered you on your merits rather than your sex or parental status.

Anonymous said...

Just a short note on one of my female student's experiences. We recently had a discussion in a political philosophy class I am teaching in which she stated that the reason she is feeling pessimistic about going to grad school has nothing to do with her treatment by her professors, save for indirectly, but rather by the aggressive treatment of her by her peers, their undermining of her value, sexual harassment, and the general aggressive tone of interaction. This kind of rocked my conception of where the problem was coming from and was rather sobering.

Don't know if this is informative for anyone else but I thought I would share it.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I think it's perfectly fine to decide to hide one's pregnancy.

But, as someone who's served (and chaired) search committees, I suspect we'd be most impressed by a candidate who was confident and outgoing, and that would include carrying the pregnancy as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world (which it is). In other words, many SCs are going to respond best to a candidate's sense of self assurance. Insofar as it's at all possible, I would not overthink the situation and that includes not bothering to hide your pregnancy or second guess what committee members might be thinking.

I realize that I can't really generalize from what would impress me and my colleagues (or what I believe would impress us). So I don't know if this is good advice. But I do think there's something to be said for minimizing the number of concerns one is mentally attempting to keep track of and focusing instead on putting yourself out there warmly and confidently.

Anonymous said...

One of the best interviews I ever attended was one with my current colleague who was obviously pregnant and blew us away with a presentation about fungi (yes, not a PHI hire). None of us in the audience cared the least about her obvious pregnancy and she is now a star younger faculty member. Anyone who pays attention to things like real life and not crap (pregnancy, skin color, accents) is someone not distracted by irrelevant things but qualities like intellectual substance, collegiality, and personal genuineness. Be that interviewer.

CTS said...

@zombie:


Would it be dishonest to conceal your pregnancy now, if it will be obvious later? Why would it be? Say you're a candidate with a pregnant spouse, and said spouse will be having that baby before you begin any new job that might be offered. Would it be dishonest for you to fail to mention that fact?


While I do not think it would be *dishonest* to conceal an early-stage pregnancy, I don't think the analogy works. If we are hiring person X, that person's partner's pregnancy is, legally, not our business. So, the ball is in the latter candidate's court:s/he can volunteer that s/he will soon be a new parent, but the SC may not ask about this. Further, it is one thing to not volunteer information about one's partner and another to try to hide a fact about oneself.

I don't know if I'm making sense, here.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with 12:10. I was visibly pregnant last year at the APA, and didn't even worry about it one way or the other. I also had at least one friend in the same situation. I had two flyouts (I think she had 4), and the question of whether or not I'd be able to make them was not ever raised. I think many people know that you can (usually) fly up until week 36 - it's a restriction for so little of the pregnancy, that I think most wouldn't bother worrying about it. Also, if you get an on-campus, it's usually scheduled pretty quickly after the APA - and if you are nearing that flight restriction date, you can always arrange for things to happen as quickly as possible. I simply wouldn't worry about being pregnant. Just do whatever it takes to be your best, knowing that healthy confidence is a good thing.

zombie said...

"that person's partner's pregnancy is, legally, not our business."

The candidate's pregnancy (or family status) is also legally not your business.

Anonymous said...

This is the second pregnant anon. The candidate's pregnancy isn't the search committee's business; I want to stress that it's no more dishonest to conceal a pregnancy than it would be to conceal any other physical or health-related characteristic that might be thought to be disadvantageous. (Are you going to lead off with your history of depression (eg.) just to be fair to the search committee? I suspect not.)

Besides, if X isn't showing, she may not be telling anyone widely yet. It's an odd norm where she'd be horribly dishonest to a committee she's just met but totally in the clear if she didn't tell her friends or family or employer yet.

But in some cases, it's prudent not to try to hide it. (Discussions with my partner suggest that I could hide the fact that I'm pregnant, if I were spotted a generously sized sweatshirt and a coat. Probably not the best interview attire.)

And my sympathies are with generally acting confident and as though it's not a big deal that in a profession with a very rigid hiring season, someone might be pregnant during the three months that one can be hired. But it's not dishonest to keep a private medical fact to yourself during a job interview.

Pound Foolish said...

"The candidate's pregnancy (or family status) is also legally not your business."

And if it is, you should recuse yourself from the SC.

Anonymous said...

8:59:

I am somewhat amazed that no one has replied to you yet. I am grateful to you for raising this, as it helps me to know that I’m not alone in these feelings. Hopefully this will help you to know that you’re not alone either.

This is my second time on the market. I did very well my first time out, with many first-round interviews, 2 fly-outs, and ultimately landed a 2-year position. Now I’m on the market again and if anything I think even more driven to worry about my ability to succeed in this field with dwindling jobs and an ever-growing field of qualified applicants. I’m also terrified I won’t be able to find secure employment, and that worry is compounded by the fact that my domestic partner is also a philosopher who has not yet even ventured onto the market. Even if I were to land a TT, there’s a good chance it will be in the middle of nowhere, with no real hope of his being able to secure a job nearby when he finishes.

I can’t offer much guidance with how to “fight that creeping feeling of having made a huge mistake” – I face that feeling pretty much daily, and it’s hard not to let it overwhelm you completely. The best advice I can offer is to try and focus on those things which are your strengths (for me, teaching) and try to think positively going forward. And: if you see jobs outside of philosophy that you think you are qualified for and which you think you could be happy with, by all means, apply for them. I have not limited myself to philosophy jobs this time around.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:04 here - I just want to second what 9:17 said. I was tired when I wrote my comment, and I realized I didn't emphasize that you won't be asked, and you also shouldn't volunteer, info like that. I was around 5 months pregnant last Dec - I had just hit the stage where I couldn't easily hide a pregnancy, and I didn't worry about it. But I would never, ever, ever have volunteered info, and many women (including myself) don't tell anyone about a pregnancy until 12-14 weeks. It's no one's business at any stage, and my point was just that I wouldn't worry about it either way. It won't come up, and you're not being dishonest if you don't volunteer it.
Incidentally - I did get a job. The pregnancy simply didn't affect my interviewing in any way. Being reasonably confident and coming off well in interviews, having strong letters, and being a good fit for the schools where I had fly-outs were what led to things working out.

Anonymous said...

It's probably too late to start another discussion on this thread, but I'll jump in anyway because I find this a really interesting topic.
There's another piece of advice that no-one has mentioned and wasn't on the original list:
*be twice as good*.
I'm from an ethnic minority background. This is the reality my parents presented me with going through school, i.e., if your grades are stellar and your behaviour is impeccable you will get equivalent recognition to your averagely performing white peers (or maybe a little bit more).

Does anyone tell female philosophy students that? Is that what they tell themselves? Is it just too paralysing a thought to deal with as an adult at the start of a competitive career?
Note: I'm not saying it's fair.
But if you expect negative bias on this scale at least you can only be pleasantly surprised when you do get credit for anything....

Jeff Wisdom said...

I think 8:59 (Nov. 30)and 6:37 (Dec. 3) have brought up a thread-worthy topic; namely, how to handle an emotionally-tough job market. But since the topic doesn't yet have its own thread, I'll just say a couple semi-quick things.

At some point or other, probably most of us in philosophy have felt the way you do now; I know I have. When the bottom first dropped out of the economy in 2008, I was in the dissertation phase. I also had a wife and a son to support. As a result, I wondered (probably several times a day) whether I'd land a philosophy job, and whether it would all be worth the effort.

Beyond a certain point, we can't affect the outcome of a job search. The best we can do is to try and have the best frame of mind we can. This is where the Stoic admonition to distinguish between what is up to us and what isn't up to us is so important. Re-reading Epictetus, and Seneca's "On the Happy Life" might help you, as it did me. You don't need to be a full-blown Stoic to appreciate the wisdom in their teachings.

The short of it is this: if you want to be happy in your current situation, cultivate gratitude. Focus on the opportunities and blessings you've received, and be thankful for them. (And stay away from reading other peoples' CVs!) Also, be sure to make time for other meaningful activities that help you relax (e.g., exercise, religious worship, music, or hobbies.) It can be hard to do, especially if you're the sort that tends to brood over bad news, but that is all the more reason to stay focused on what is beneficial.

Anonymous said...

10:43,
Most ethnic minorities have a much better chance of admission (to elite colleges and to PhD programs) than white males with the same grades and the same standardized test scores. So it's just flat out false that if your grades are stellar and behaviour impeccable (whatever that means) you will get equivalent recognition to your averagely performing white peers. Just the opposite. With the same grades, you'll get much more recognition.

CTS said...

@zombie:

The candidate's pregnancy (or family status) is also legally not your business.

Of course not. My point was that I did not think your analogy worked.

Anonymous said...

3:57,

Evidence? I've never seen a philosophy department that wasn't almost exclusively white male at the graduate level.

Anonymous said...

"Evidence?"

Look at average Academic Index for whites and blacks in the Ivy League. Or just SAT scores broken down by race for any private college. Some data was published a number of years ago in The Shape of the River.

"I've never seen a philosophy department that wasn't almost exclusively white male at the graduate level."

Uh.
Really?
Do you want me to post the URLs for some graduate programs that are not almost exclusively male? Or did you mean something other than what you wrote?

There are very, very few black people in philosophy PhD programs, if that's what you meant -- I'm well aware of that. But that's not the question.


Anonymous said...

@702

I suggest you take another look at the statistics recently posted on this blog.

7:02 said...

10:37,

:02Why? What is it you think those statistics show that contradicts anything I said?

Anonymous said...

5:03:

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

I recently interviewed at the APA. The interview went fine, but in an awkward moment when I was exiting the women's bathroom, one of the interviewers asked about whether my last name was my maiden name. Should I tell the chair of the hiring committee that this question was inappropriate?