philosophy meta-forum

Gender Equity in Philosophy Hiring

Derek

209 day(s) ago

Like most readers are or were, I'm a white, male graduate student in philosophy. I began reading the metablogs several years ago after discussion migrated there from PhilAnon. If I recall correctly, (one of) the topic(s) responsible for the migration was whether gender bias existed in philosophy hiring and, if it existed, which gender benefitted. There seemed to be genuine disagreement and ignorance about the statistics at the time. Opinions fell along predictable lines. Many future metabros and metabroads were convinced that administrative capture by self-anointed progressives hobbled men on the whole. FemPhils and compatriots were equally certain that implicit bias and overt sexism produced unfair outcomes for women, all things considered. Discussion centered on statistics, not on the desirability of bias as such.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations at the Smoker and at NewAPPs, as I recall, suggested that bias existed and favoured women, but these were sketchy and changed no opinions. I speculate that these discussions and her conviction that the cursory statistics were misleading moved CDJ to conduct her well-publicised survey. No doubt she suspected that the facts supported her conviction. As the gender and prestige blog attests, they do not. There were some further embarrassing episodes, such as CDJ's attempt on the APA blog (http://blog.apaonline.org/2016/05/03/academic-placement-data-and- analysis-an-update-with-a-focus-on-gender/) to explain inconvenient data away with the conjecture that either that women graduate with greater confidence, boosting their likelihood of placement (?) or that women specialize in in-demand subfields, a conjecture that comports poorly with the data, as indicated in the promptly-closed comments section. Discussion has since trickled off, which is partly attributable to recent controversies, like Tuvel.

Still, conversation about bias in hiring on other blogs is typically met with the party line reply, "You're just a white dude jealous that rad chicks are getting jobs because better than you." These replies are often only half right: many of us are white dudes, some of us are jealous, but not of our betters, be they female or otherwise. Only here can we do better. So I invite discussion around this topic to help inaugurate the Meta-Forum.

Some topics:

(1) There's bias against men in philosophy hiring. But is it wrong? Defenders of the permissibility of anti-male bias will cite the obvious dearth of senior female philosophy professors. Let's grant, controversially, that this is itself bad, not merely evidence of badness. Does it follow from the badness of the dearth of senior female philosophers that bias against junior male applicants is permissible? Obviously I think not, but it would be nice to make the arguments publicly.

(2) What can junior male applicants who think that our applications should neither benefit nor suffer because of our gender do to get committees to hire equitably? Is there any way to get committees to care about this issue, beyond its (virtually unenforceable) legality?

(3) Can we swing discussion on the mainstream blogs to more awareness of this issue? I suppose that, in contrast to 2013, everyone now acknowledges that the statistics indicate quite significant anti-male hiring bias, meaningful discussion concerns only whether this bias is permissible. There's no incentive for someone like Wineberg, who is both a white, tenured man and who wants to stay on the right side of those who support anti-male bias, to host a discussion. But an absence of discussion tacitly endorses the status quo, which is bias. Continued silence on this topic is a victory for those who would disadvantage male applicants.

Anna

209 day(s) ago

Like most readers are or were, I'm a white, male graduate student in philosophy.

Derek

I'm very sorry for you. Work hard on your plan B.

Slavoj

209 day(s) ago

These replies are often only half right: many of us are white dudes, some of us are jealous

"Jealous" is the wrong word; not to go all Samuel L Jackson, but it's more like righteous anger.

Does it follow from the badness of the dearth of senior female philosophers that bias against junior male applicants is permissible?

I don't know that there are any arguments here that are going to sway the other side. It might just be a difference in how much weight is assigned to fairness or meritocracy versus the realization of various distributive patterns.

(2) What can junior male applicants who think that our applications should neither benefit nor suffer because of our gender do to get committees to hire equitably? Is there any way to get committees to care about this issue, beyond its (virtually unenforceable) legality?
Derek

I don't think junior male applicants can do anything, qua applicants. But eventually some junior male applicants will become junior male professors and be asked to serve on hiring committees. I think one person can make a big difference when it comes to issues like this. If just one person is in the room pushing back against the otherwise prevailing view that, of course, we ought to hire a woman if possible -- and even raising legal issues! -- things can change. Of course, this is risky, and may be prejudicial to one's reputation among the "woke". Still, I've resolved to do it myself next time I'm on a hiring committee. I'd urge others who feel that the current market is unjust to do similarly. Reflect for a moment on what you'd do if you were on a hiring committee, and do your best to bind your will in advance to do the right thing.

Slavoj

209 day(s) ago

Actually, it strikes me that one potentially productive thing could be to set up a blog, kind of like "what's it like to be a woman in philosophy", where people can anonymously post details of pressure that they've faced to hire on the basis of gender/race/etc while on hiring committees. I've heard a million stories like this in person; many of you surely have too. It would of course all be unverifiable. But it might be dialectically powerful to have a whole bunch of stories all in one place.

Anna

209 day(s) ago

Actually, it strikes me that one potentially productive thing could be to set up a blog, kind of like "what's it like to be a woman in philosophy", where people can anonymously post details of pressure that they've faced to hire on the basis of gender/race/etc while on hiring committees. I've heard a million stories like this in person; many of you surely have too. It would of course all be unverifiable. But it might be dialectically powerful to have a whole bunch of stories all in one place.

Slavoj

Your department will be identified in 5 mins. by your colleagues who happen to be here. And then, you'll be discovered. And then, you'll lose your job.

But yes, other than that, it would be an awesome idea

Slavoj

209 day(s) ago

Your department will be identified in 5 mins. by your colleagues who happen to be here. And then, you'll be discovered. And then, you'll lose your job.

But yes, other than that, it would be an awesome idea

Anna

Why must it be any riskier than "what it's like to be a woman in philosophy"? Presumably people can modify details to avoid detection. Plus, uniquely identifying the poster won't necessarily be easy even if you know all the facts of the case. If each member of the committee has plausible deniability, that ought to be enough.

Pascal

209 day(s) ago

I don't know why you think that "most readers are or were, I'm a white, male graduate student in philosophy". That sounds like a stereotype about the metablogs, but is there any evidence it's true?

Ernest

209 day(s) ago

I just want to note something here which seems relevant that I haven't seen other people float. It's often noted that high status males in the profession often 'tow the party line' and talk about how good it is to hire women, how good diversity is, how there's nothing worth complaining about for privileged white males, etc. The OP suggests one reason for this, namely to stay on the right side of people. But I think there's a costly signalling explanation here too. For a white man to make it in philosophy and then to be very cavalier and unconcerned about possible anti-male bias is a signal of strength. Rather like how the ability to grow a beard is attractive, on the story I have in mind, partly because testosterone inhibits the immune system, and so strong beard growth implies high testosterone which in turn implies that the immune system was strong enough for that. So if I was a guy who had made it in philosophy and wanted to seem super awesome, I would try not to seem to concerned about bias against my demographic. I'd be more inclined to brush it off, thus showing how I'm so awesome that that just isn't a serious concern for me and the kinds of awesome circles I move in.

Derek

209 day(s) ago

I don't know why you think that "most readers are or were, I'm a white, male graduate student in philosophy". That sounds like a stereotype about the metablogs, but is there any evidence it's true?

Pascal

It follows from the assumption that metaforum readers are academic philosophers and that male philosophers are at least as likely as female philosophers to be readers. I take it that you lack evidence to the contrary given that forum readership is anonymous.

Derek

209 day(s) ago

I just want to note something here which seems relevant that I haven't seen other people float. It's often noted that high status males in the profession often 'tow the party line' and talk about how good it is to hire women, how good diversity is, how there's nothing worth complaining about for privileged white males, etc. The OP suggests one reason for this, namely to stay on the right side of people. But I think there's a costly signalling explanation here too. For a white man to make it in philosophy and then to be very cavalier and unconcerned about possible anti-male bias is a signal of strength. Rather like how the ability to grow a beard is attractive, on the story I have in mind, partly because testosterone inhibits the immune system, and so strong beard growth implies high testosterone which in turn implies that the immune system was strong enough for that. So if I was a guy who had made it in philosophy and wanted to seem super awesome, I would try not to seem to concerned about bias against my demographic. I'd be more inclined to brush it off, thus showing how I'm so awesome that that just isn't a serious concern for me and the kinds of awesome circles I move in.

Ernest

Cool conjecture but if the ultimate aim is to seem awesome, wouldn't it be just as effective to acknowledge the bias, once one has succeeded, for then one's awesomeness will have overcome a stacked deck?

Angela

209 day(s) ago

I think you're onto something, Ernest. It's not just virtue-signalling that happens here, it's also status-signalling.

The economist in me has to make this related point: there are, as you note, costs associated with taking a moral stand. Those in positions of high status are better positioned to incur those costs (job security). They also are likely to pay a lower price, thanks to status deference and related dynamics. These two factors together suggest that it is *efficient* to have high-status individuals taking moral stands.

This point can stand even if moral stands turn out to be status- and virtue- signalling.

Vandana

209 day(s) ago

For men currently on the market, I'm wondering if this line of inquiry is worth pursuing, at least in the short run:

What if the bias in favor of hiring women right now is not so much a bias in favor of hiring women as it is a bias in favor of approaching gender balance? Has anyone looked to see whether the current m:f ratio in a department is a predictor of how likely a given department is to be biased in favor of female hires?

If there is a relationship, if it's mostly the departments with a relatively high (ie, relative to other departments) m:f ratio that are not making offers to men, then maybe men can help their chances a bit by putting more of their effort in applying to departments that are relatively more balanced already and so may not be feeling the same pressures to hire only women. I don't see that as a solution in general, just a way an individual person might be able to help themself out. If there is no such relationship, well, nevermind.

Ernest

209 day(s) ago

I just want to note something here which seems relevant that I haven't seen other people float. It's often noted that high status males in the profession often 'tow the party line' and talk about how good it is to hire women, how good diversity is, how there's nothing worth complaining about for privileged white males, etc. The OP suggests one reason for this, namely to stay on the right side of people. But I think there's a costly signalling explanation here too. For a white man to make it in philosophy and then to be very cavalier and unconcerned about possible anti-male bias is a signal of strength. Rather like how the ability to grow a beard is attractive, on the story I have in mind, partly because testosterone inhibits the immune system, and so strong beard growth implies high testosterone which in turn implies that the immune system was strong enough for that. So if I was a guy who had made it in philosophy and wanted to seem super awesome, I would try not to seem to concerned about bias against my demographic. I'd be more inclined to brush it off, thus showing how I'm so awesome that that just isn't a serious concern for me and the kinds of awesome circles I move in.

Ernest

Cool conjecture but if the ultimate aim is to seem awesome, wouldn't it be just as effective to acknowledge the bias, once one has succeeded, for then one's awesomeness will have overcome a stacked deck?

Derek

That is a difficulty for my suggestion, I agree. But I think if you acknowledge the bias you either have to follow through and be concerned about it, and that makes you politically problematic, or you have to downplay it. I think there are some downplayers who do successfully get a status boost here, but it's a tricky line to walk. In the recent climate, I think the best strategy is to just not acknowledge anti-male bias and be completely unconcerned about that, showing that you're awesome and have no sour grapes and no personal reason to be bothered. Then the fact that really *everyone* knows about the bias can just do its work in the background, letting your signal of strength come through clearly without you having to get your, er, feathers dirty.

Ernest

209 day(s) ago

I just want to note something here which seems relevant that I haven't seen other people float. It's often noted that high status males in the profession often 'tow the party line' and talk about how good it is to hire women, how good diversity is, how there's nothing worth complaining about for privileged white males, etc. The OP suggests one reason for this, namely to stay on the right side of people. But I think there's a costly signalling explanation here too. For a white man to make it in philosophy and then to be very cavalier and unconcerned about possible anti-male bias is a signal of strength. Rather like how the ability to grow a beard is attractive, on the story I have in mind, partly because testosterone inhibits the immune system, and so strong beard growth implies high testosterone which in turn implies that the immune system was strong enough for that. So if I was a guy who had made it in philosophy and wanted to seem super awesome, I would try not to seem to concerned about bias against my demographic. I'd be more inclined to brush it off, thus showing how I'm so awesome that that just isn't a serious concern for me and the kinds of awesome circles I move in.

Ernest

Cool conjecture but if the ultimate aim is to seem awesome, wouldn't it be just as effective to acknowledge the bias, once one has succeeded, for then one's awesomeness will have overcome a stacked deck?

Derek

That is a difficulty for my suggestion, I agree. But I think if you acknowledge the bias you either have to follow through and be concerned about it, and that makes you politically problematic, or you have to downplay it. I think there are some downplayers who do successfully get a status boost here, but it's a tricky line to walk. In the recent climate, I think the best strategy is to just not acknowledge anti-male bias and be completely unconcerned about that, showing that you're awesome and have no sour grapes and no personal reason to be bothered. Then the fact that really *everyone* knows about the bias can just do its work in the background, letting your signal of strength come through clearly without you having to get your, er, feathers dirty.

Ernest

I was sort of conflating two things there, or talking about one and then shifting to the other. One is that if you acknowledge the anti male bias, then general norms of decency and consistency push you to be concerned, and that may make you politically problematic. The other is that that same concern may also make you look sour grapesy and less strong.

And regarding the downplaying option, this really does shade into the 'just ignore it' option and it depends on which situations you find yourself in. If you're in a public discussion and get numbers thrown in your face, you probably ought to ackowledge but downplay. But if you can just avoid getting into that situation in the first place, and just be seen lauding diversity initiatives with no difficult analysis in the vicinity, maybe that's your best bet.

Ofelia

209 day(s) ago

There's bias against men in philosophy hiring. But is it wrong?

I would call it more 'bias in favor of women' than 'bias against men', but the effects are similar. And no, it is not, in my view, wrong.

On the hiring side of things, having someone in the room making a persistent case for taking women's files seriously and continually calling attention to their various aspects basically makes the difference between hiring a woman or not. Without someone to point out that the entire shortlist is male, all-male shortlists are common. The effect of this 'bias', if you want to call it that, is actually making offers to and hiring women. I think making offers to and hiring women is a good thing. That's not because of any nutty 'justice' considerations, FWIW, but just because it is valuable to have women around to mentor female students.

Georgia

209 day(s) ago

(3) Can we swing discussion on the mainstream blogs to more awareness of this issue? I suppose that, in contrast to 2013, everyone now acknowledges that the statistics indicate quite significant anti-male hiring bias, meaningful discussion concerns only whether this bias is permissible. There's no incentive for someone like Wineberg, who is both a white, tenured man and who wants to stay on the right side of those who support anti-male bias, to host a discussion. But an absence of discussion tacitly endorses the status quo, which is bias. Continued silence on this topic is a victory for those who would disadvantage male applicants.

Derek

Some statistics based on CDJ's database for 2012/13

"The first main finding is that, by and large, men publish more than women do:

- The average publication rate for women hired was about 0.8.

- The median number of publications for a woman hired was 0.

- The average publication rate for men hired was about 1.5.

- The median number of publications for a man hired was 1.

... For the Top 15 journals, 27% of men hired had at least one such publication, while only 11% of women hired had at least one. For these journals, the average publication rate for men hired was 0.42 publications, while for women hired it was only 0.14 publications.

... The statistical findings, at least as far as philosophy job hiring in 2012 and 2013 were concerned, indicate the existence of both prestige and gender bias in philosophy job hiring:

- Against lower prestige male applicants.

- For high prestige female applicants.

As noted above, the correlation amongst those hired between being unpublished and gender is statistically significant."

http://genderandprestige.blogspot.com

Donald

209 day(s) ago

I was on a hiring committee early in my career (at a non-terrible but non-stellar undergraduate institution) and we were told that an administrator above the level of the Chair had told us that we *would* hire a woman (the department was composed almost entirely of men). I objected, but the objection went nowhere. I said that if we were going to do that, we needed to say it in the ad. I was told that that would be illegal. I pointed out that it was illegal to say it because it was illegal to do it. I pointed out that it was not fair...and that it was an additional level of unfairness to allow a large number of men to spend their time and money and investment of hope sending in dossiers that would be ignored. No objection gained any traction. I was told that we had no choice, and that if we complained any more that we'd lose the position. Normally, I wouldn't have caved, but I was dealing with a personal crisis at the time, and worn out, and eventually my colleagues prevailed upon me to accept the inevitable. We hired--unsurprisingly--a mediocre candidate. I'd never let a department I was in get away with something like this now, however.

Jaakko

209 day(s) ago

I'm a male. Back in the day, when I was on the market, I had an interview with my undergraduate alma mater, a good regional SLAC. I thought it went well until the end of the interview when I was told that I had been interviewed as a courtesy, because I was an alumnus. The department was going to hire a woman or the position would cease to exist. I never had a chance to start with. They hired an SJW woman, who has since left.

Derek

208 day(s) ago

There's bias against men in philosophy hiring. But is it wrong?

I would call it more 'bias in favor of women' than 'bias against men', but the effects are similar. And no, it is not, in my view, wrong.

Ofelia

The unfair coin doesn't have a bias against heads so much as a bias in favor of tails. Calling it a bias in favor of women masks its wrongful effects, which is often why the phrase appeals to those with bias.

Simone

208 day(s) ago

One counterpoint anecdatum: on my last job run, I got 0 interviews. A few of my female friends who were fresh on the market got around 7 each (which they totally deserve, by the way). I was jealous, no doubt about it. But none of those turned into jobs for them, whereas I got a few postdoc offers.

It's normal to be jealous, but let's not let it eat us all up.

Anna

208 day(s) ago

There's bias against men in philosophy hiring. But is it wrong?

I would call it more 'bias in favor of women' than 'bias against men', but the effects are similar. And no, it is not, in my view, wrong.

Ofelia

The unfair coin doesn't have a bias against heads so much as a bias in favor of tails. Calling it a bias in favor of women masks its wrongful effects, which is often why the phrase appeals to those with bias.

Derek

The point is not "bias against men". The issue is that there is bias against the best candidate(s), if there is at least one decent (sometimes not so decent) candidate who happens to be a woman. They're gonna hire the woman. And it's awful for both talented men and talented women in the profession.

My administration is also pro-women. (Despite my nickname, I'm a man). And they are pressuring us to hire a woman. And the female colleagues are bossing us into hiring a woman. We'll be having a job opening in the fall and they are already dictating us the sex of our future colleague. I find this terrible for the profession.

If I happen to sit in the search committee, I'll be fighting against this madness.

Derek

208 day(s) ago

And the female colleagues are bossing us into hiring a woman. We'll be having a job opening in the fall and they are already dictating us the sex of our future colleague.

Anna

Without compromising your anonymity, can you tell us more about how your colleagues are exerting pressure to ensure a female hire?

Kate

206 day(s) ago

A new study finds that philosophy journals that don't use blind review have a higher percentage of women authors.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11098-017-0919-0

What do people think?

Alexandra

206 day(s) ago

A new study finds that philosophy journals that don't use blind review have a higher percentage of women authors.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11098-017-0919-0

What do people think?

Kate

This is an intriguing result. Here's the main discussion of it in the paper (page 19):

"Finally, it is striking that journals which practice non-anonymous review tend to

publish more women than journals which do not.21 This result is surprising because

it seems inconsistent with some literature on anonymous review (Budden et al.

2008). There are several possible reasons why women do worse in journals that

review anonymously. First, the majority of the reviewers at these journals are

probably men (Hassoun and Conklin 2015). It is possible that men and women have

different opinions on what does and does not constitute important or interesting

philosophy (Dotson 2012). Second, biases against women may be affecting the

process of anonymous review, despite the intentions of all involved (Lee and

Schunn 2010; De Cruz 2014a). Even when journals try to keep author identities

hidden, cues like the article’s written style, its theme, and its similarity to

conference presentations of which the reviewers may be aware could still reveal the

identities of the authors (Rosenblatt and Kirk 1981). Moreover, there are some

reports that reviewers seek out the identity of the author through the use of Google

(Brogaard 2012). It is also worth noting that some journals have built-in procedures

to partially circumvent their otherwise anonymous review processes (Lee and

Schunn 2010). In the final step of the review process at Ethics, for example, the

editors hold a vote to decide whether an article should be published or not, at which

point two of the editors are aware of the identity of the author.22 As one Editorial

Board member explained, associate editors can also invite submissions, thereby

circumventing an initial screening by the editor, and guaranteeing that the

manuscript will be sent to external reviewers (Author’s personal correspondence:

withheld for anonymity). Practices like these, which may occur in other journals,

could make it harder for women to publish. In general, such practices may help

well-connected authors—who are overwhelmingly men—to subvert the standard

double or triple anonymous review process. Third, it may be easier for journals that

do not anonymously review to publish more women (Hassoun and Conklin 2015).

An editor or reviewer who realizes that their journal is not publishing many women

can fix that, if the review process is not anonymous, by giving well-reviewed

women authors a chance to publish. It is probably harder for journals that practice

anonymous review to remedy the gender disparity."

Maria

206 day(s) ago

Wait. If revealing the gender of the author helps women in non-blind review, why would it hurt women to find out the author's gender in blind review systems by googling, etc.? Is there some reason to think that editors/referees in non-blind systems are more pro-women than editors/referees in blind systems? Does it even matter? We all know where this is heading, no matter what the data says. This is so fucking depressing.

Hartry

206 day(s) ago

Wait. If revealing the gender of the author helps women in non-blind review, why would it hurt women to find out the author's gender in blind review systems by googling, etc.? Is there some reason to think that editors/referees in non-blind systems are more pro-women than editors/referees in blind systems? Does it even matter? We all know where this is heading, no matter what the data says. This is so fucking depressing.

Maria

Nice point.

Here's where it's going:

Abstract: This paper is an attempt to address the underrepresentation of women in elite ethics journals, where ethics is understood broadly. I focus on this problem because it is a concrete manifestation of the gender problem in philosophy, a problem that, while well known, can be difficult to pin down. I begin by discussing the gender problem in philosophy. I outline the data regarding the underrepresentation of women- authored papers in elite ethics journals. Next, I give some reasons in favour of proportional representation. Finally, I discuss one potential avenue of ensuring proportional representation: namely, gender-based quotas in elite ethics journals. I do not provide a complete defense of this policy. I canvass the usual and obvious reasons that are given for immediately dismissing it. I argue that these reasons, when examined closely, do not hold. This suggests, at minimum, that gender-based quotas should not be outright dismissed as a potential (albeit partial)solution to the gender problemin philosophy and that quotas are deserving of more consideration.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/yxm612kkls78b1n/Krishnamurthy-ProportionalRepresentation.pdf?dl=0

Georg

186 day(s) ago

Wait. If revealing the gender of the author helps women in non-blind review, why would it hurt women to find out the author's gender in blind review systems by googling, etc.? Is there some reason to think that editors/referees in non-blind systems are more pro-women than editors/referees in blind systems? Does it even matter? We all know where this is heading, no matter what the data says. This is so fucking depressing.

Maria

Why get depressed when we can still get organized and fight it?

Paul

185 day(s) ago

I wish I knew how...

Anne

185 day(s) ago

Wait. If revealing the gender of the author helps women in non-blind review, why would it hurt women to find out the author's gender in blind review systems by googling, etc.? Is there some reason to think that editors/referees in non-blind systems are more pro-women than editors/referees in blind systems? Does it even matter? We all know where this is heading, no matter what the data says. This is so fucking depressing.

Maria

Why get depressed when we can still get organized and fight it?

Georg

How though? We need safe strategies to resist diversity hiring. Reporting the truth won't cut it. And anyone who tries to make sense prevail in a search committee is at risk of being accused of sexism. That's how the power grab happened in the first place.

Adriana

185 day(s) ago

If it isn't safe to report the truth, then do it another way. A lot of time there is something else you can use.

posts per page.