philosophy meta-forum

Gender Equity in Philosophy Hiring

Derek

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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

147 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?

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