Seeking diversity: another approach

The following notice is being circulated to the women’s studies faculty at my university (which I’ll  call the “XYZ University”). 

On October 22nd a Gender Equity Visiting Team from the American Physical Society (APS) will come to the XYZ Physics Department.  That team will consist of Prof. Barbara Whitten** (Colorado College), Professor Peter Sheldon (Randolph College) and Sherry Yennello (Texas A&M). The goal for the visit is to try and identify actions that we can take as a physics department to try and improve the situation regarding attracting women to and keeping them in physics as a career.  In addition, we need to understand what campus-wide and more general societal issues that we need to be aware of and help address to the extent we can that will facilitate our primary goal.

A small luncheon is planned for the visiting team to meet with physics staff and faculty as well as guests from outside departments.   If you are interested in attending this luncheon meeting …

It’s intriguing to think of doing this for philosophy in various countries.  What would we need?  For starters:

Active interest on the part of departments

A group of advisors with the relevant expertise


Given the discussions here and elsewhere recently, the need for expertise is quite a substantial requirement.  It means a good grasp not  just of the causes of women’s underrepresentation, but also of the  ways to alleviate it.  Still, this is something that could be a goal.  Or, at the  very least, worth thinking about.

**Barbara Witten, if memory serves me correctly, spoke at the first FEMMSS conference.

4 thoughts on “Seeking diversity: another approach

  1. I think that some (not all) of the men in my department would be very resistant to such a visitation. They would see it as an imposition. They only want the “best people”, whether for job applicants or graduate student applicants. True it would be nice to have more women around, but this goal cannot interfere with the commitment to getting the “best people.”

  2. Calypso, they are certainly not alone!

    To say the obvious: I think faith in their own judgment is what leads men to infer that either women are not interested in philosophy or they cannot do it well enough. After all, the alternative explanation – they themselves are operating with unconscious biases – just cannot be true. They can see inside and biases are not there!!

  3. Calypso, your comment makes me aware that “willing departments” needs to be added to the list.

    Maybe we’re seeing the circle that advocates of various kinds of social change face. I think we should at least look at how other groups have successfully broken the circle open. NSF broke it with money; departments become a lot more willing if there’s money involved. Other advocates have used non-violent protests, or even violent ones. Some have tried really grass roots co opting.

  4. APS has no gender platform. APS is accused of discriminating against a female employee (me) in its headquarters and for running an environment hostile to female support staff in a federal lawsuit. I have been fighting this alone, while APS smears me and makes personal attacks. Even though APS claims it wants workpalces where women can speak up, no woman can come up against APS or you get retaliated against (like I have). The male HR director was directly involved in the harassment and of course, chose to do nothing. Fermi, a big APS supporter, also has a lawsuit against it. A male APS exec admitted in his depo that he thought the plaintiff was a “ditz” when he said he did not even know her. APS should look at home and address what’s wrong at home (ie, removing the male employees who discriminated) before claiming to be any type of expert anywhere else.

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