Obama gave his task force 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campuses.
I hope the quote marks manage to suggest the “I” does not necessarily refer to me!
A recent movie reminded me of a literary trope about death. The actor is often first shown in some very dangerous or threatening situation. In the next scene, the character is back in a familiar setting. Still, no one seems to notice, even people very close to them. Then they try to speak to someone, but no one hears and so no one replies. Someone in the scene might get the sense that there’s something unusual in the environment, perhaps an odd wind or lowering of temperature, but the character’s presence is not understood.
How many times, I wondered, have I experienced this scene in philosophy? It used, I think, to happen a great deal, when one didn’t get called on however often one’s hand went up in a question period until finally at the end one could say something and it was completely misunderstood and dismissed. I might count the two experiences I’ve had recently of having my comments responded to at a conference by someone who didn’t recognize that I actually argued for the counter-claims I had made. I could put in here a conviction I recently discovered was shared in a group a people; namely, nothing I did benefited my department or my college. The latter might have at least asked for my opinion, if I existed.
Interestingly, the too often reported experience of having one’s comment in a question period attributed to someone else certainly fits the literary trope. Here is a scene in which the character says something and it is heard, but everyone thinks it came from someone else who is visible to them.
I have also had much more perfect instances of the trope, one recent one taking the prize, though without the danger, unless one counts publishing as a woman in philosophy dangerous.
Enough about me! What about you?
Below is a contribution from a recent Edge project. And we thought philosophy was too often bad for women!
The question was, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”
The Way We Produce And Advance Science
Last year, I spearheaded a survey and interview research project on the experiences of scientists at field sites. Over sixty percent of the respondents had been sexually harassed, and twenty percent had been sexually assaulted. Sexual predation was only the beginning of what I and my colleagues uncovered: study respondents reported psychological and physical abuses, like being forced to work late into the day without being told when they could head back to camp, not being allowed to urinate, verbal threats and bullying, and being denied food. The majority of perpetrators are fellow scientists senior to the target of abuse, the target themselves usually a female graduate student. Since we started analyzing these data, I haven’t been able to read a single empirical science paper without wondering on whose backs, via whose exploitation, that research was conducted.
There is a lot more to this piece, which you can find by following the link above, which will take you to a very interesting blog. The author is Prof. Kate Clancy, who was also features in another recent post on FemPhil., Welcome But Not Really.
In the “Men behaving splendidly” session at the APA, there was some discussion of what percentage of women should we push for. Elizabeth Harman made a strong and important point; it was roughly this: When we give conferences we are educating the next generation, so we should have 50 % women philosophy speakers.
Whatever the right numbers, it is a very safe bet that a conference without women speakers, or with a very small minority of them, is not encouraging women to participate in philosophy.
But, you might say, you don’t think badly of women philosophers; you may an effort to include some, but it doesn’t always work out. Well, read below; in some ways it makes points made at the APA, but briefly and directly:
In a study I conducted among white workers, I found that 70% of the participants’ jobs, past and present, had been landed with the help of friends or relatives who were in a position to provide inside information, exert influence on the candidates’ behalf, or directly offer job or promotion opportunities.
Yet virtually all of these employees, as well as white managers I’ve interviewed, maintain that they oppose racism and are in favor of equal opportunity.
In my work on diversity, I often meet CEOs who are genuinely concerned about disparities and are highly motivated to increase their organizations’ diversity. Yet they frame the issue in terms of discrimination and “bias against.” They don’t see the powerful locked-arms effect of the “bias for” that’s prevalent in hiring and promotion decisions. I once spoke to an executive whose company was being celebrated for its commitment to diversity, but over dinner I was told proudly by one of the key HR managers that the company relies on referrals from existing employees for many of their middle-management hires.
Which brings me to take an unpopular stand: Up with bureaucracy.
I don’t mean the kind of bureaucracy that drives people crazy. I mean the kind that provides minority candidates with protections from biases that are embedded in corporate decision-making. It’s perfectly logical for managers to want to interview and hire known quantities—résumés can be opaque and mendacious, and there’s no Angie’s List equivalent for finding highly recommended employees (at least not yet). But when it comes to hiring and promotion, I’m in favor of a systems approach that reduces reliance on the kinds of judgments that lead to bad decisions—an approach that is measured not on process but on outcomes with regard to the competency, race, ethnicity, and gender of hired or promoted employees.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that a systems approach can feel inadequate; the “numbers” never tell a complete story. Neither companies nor universities rely solely on test scores, because they know that doing so wouldn’t lead to the best outcomes. So the trick is creating a systems approach that evaluates candidates in a holistic way. That means an array of metrics, from competency tests to psychological profiles regarding fit for the job. Companies need to establish specific criteria on what constitutes competence in any given job, and they need to collect data on those specific criteria rather than rely on assumptions or impressions. To be effective, metrics need to be specified in advance, and they need to be up to date and not based solely on managerial perceptions.
Part of the solution is a new mind-set on executives’ part. There’s abundant evidence that just trying harder or wanting to do better doesn’t make a difference. What does matter is being conscious of the decisions we are making—we need to move these crucial decisions from the unconscious to the conscious realm. If we think about being accountable for the decisions we make, and if we stop believing that we can make truly unbiased or objective decisions, then we are less likely to make decisions that reflect implicit or unconscious bias in favor of people like ourselves—and more likely to end up with a workforce that is more diverse and better fits the needs of our organizations and their global clients.
Until recently, rare was the ‘elite designer’ who made more than an occasional size 12; sizes 2 and 4 were preferred. It seemed to me, anyway. The idea sseemed to be that if you wanted off the rack high-end clothes, you either had skinny genes or you worked at it. If there’s a uncontrollable cause to your size 16, just forget it, the designers seemed to say. You don’t deserve our clothes.
This punishing attitude no longer has sway. If indeed that’s what was going on. At the Neiman.Marcus.com sale, along with many others, Michael Kors, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Escada are all making XL. AND the Gaultier goes up to XXL.
This is not an advertisement. The clothes easily within an academic’s budget tend to go when the sale starts, though you might still find some now. Similarly for the non-pretentious clothes which are just very well made.
BUT at least larger women, i.e., more normal sized women, are now recognized by the fashion industry. One possible cause for shame is at least mitigated.
From The Scientist
… researchers from Indiana University, the University of Montreal, and the University of Quebec have looked at citations across [science]disciplines by gender and demonstrated that female scientists publish less and receive fewer citations than their male counterparts around the world. The analysis was published as a comment in Nature this week (December 11).
The team classified authorship by gender for over 27 million authors of nearly 5.5 million papers published between 2008 and 2012. They found that in the majority of countries—including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada, and China—women published less than half as often as men. In countries with fewer total papers, women contributed more equally. The researchers also examined collaborations and found that women did not have has many international collaborations as men did, and that papers with women as first or last author received fewer citations than papers with men as first or last author.
As they note, those with well funded large labs could expect to have a high number of publications. But the lower rate of publication for women might have other explanations. Perhaps women’s experience leads some of us to expect people are not going to be particularly interested in what we have to say. Or perhaps some of us occupy a less standard stance, which makes our work less easily acceptable. Or perhaps in philosophy women publish just as much as men do.
What do you think?
The bad isms are racism, sexism, ageism, etc, etc. There is a lot of recent work on how to combat biases of these kinds, particularly implicit ones, of which their possessors are not aware, or are only slightly aware. Leverhulme, for example, generously funded 4 workshops at Sheffield on the topic.
Cognitive Behavioral Theory could also be seen as addressing biases in one’s thinking. It is also, apparently, empirically tested and quite successful. Plus, it also often comes with great little handbooks.
Particularly attracted to the idea of developing a handbook, I’ve been wondering whether anyone has ever tried to do a CBT version for racism, etc. (I’m assuming a technique not identical to plagiarism could make the handbook development easier than it might be if one were starting from scratch.)
Do you know of anyone who has tried to develop CBT for racism, sexism?
The state of Texas, and no doubt many other states and countries, have something like mandated workbooks for these things, which are on the web in the form of exams. These are worthless, really. What will you get if you give the same test to 800 faculty? Lots and lots of copying.