There’s been a great discussion lately on SWIP-L (US SWIP mailing list, but anyone can join it) about how to get and keep more women in philosophy. Loads of great stuff to take up there, and hopefully we’ll get to all of it eventually. But I wanted to pull out one suggestion from Shelley Tremain, which I think is absolutely on target. (What follows is my words, though, not hers.) The point, put very succinctly, is that the way we (at least in the US) do the job market in philosophy is TERRIBLE. It’s terrible not just for women but for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of disposable cash. Unemployed philosophers, we all know, do not in general have a lot of money. And yet:
The standard demand is that every applicant post a vast and heavy dossier containing writing samples, etc. This gets very expensive, and even more so (obviously) for non-US applicants. Much of this material, we all know, doesn’t even get read. What gets read is, at best, the stuff from people who make it past the first cut, and probably less than that. Given that email is much faster and more reliable, and given that we all supposedly care about the environment, it’s unconscionable not to allow electronic applications. If we can manage that for grad school applications, etc, surely we can manage it for jobs. Yes, this means that receiving departments will have to do the work of and pay the cost of printing all those dossiers. But this cost will have to fall on someone, and can we really justify putting it on some of the most disadvantaged people in our field (the unemployed)? Besides, we’re all increasingly used to reading things online rather than printing them, so printing costs may be lessened not only by the fact that not everything needs reading, but also by the fact that we can read without printing. APA interviews: Why do we insist on these? Think about it: we’re asking UNEMPLOYED people to spend hundreds of dollars to get to the APA, then hundreds more on accommodation. Moreover, I’ve never met anyone actually prepared to give a rousing defense of the usefulness of APA interviews. In fact, I seem to recall lots of studies showing that interviews lead to people making poor hiring judgments. (Anyone have a reference?) Certainly, it seems to me that being good at APA interviews is not a great predictor of one’s future in philosophy. (I’m pretty sure I’d think this even if I wasn’t totally crap at APA interviews.) And, aside from economic equity and effectiveness issues, let’s at least give another passing thought to air miles. If people do think it’s useful to have a large number of initial screening interviews, why not allow phone interviews?
Current and recent job applicants: What else do you think would improve the process?