Reader query: success rates for women and minorities

I’ve had the following query from a reader.

This is just a request for some information (if you happen to have it, or know someone who might) regarding whether it’s in fact easier for women and minorities to get jobs in philosophy in the current climate.

There is a lot of negative energy in philosophy at the moment (as you know), and one thing that occurs quite frequently is what I call the taking away of credit from women and minorities for their successes on the job market. It takes the form of faculty members and graduate students saying “So-and-so only got that job because she’s a woman/minority”. Because this kind of attitude is so pervasive and so harmful (because it devalues women/minorities), one perhaps easy thing to do to combat it would be to make some stats available to the relevant people/departments. I’ve been trying to collect the relevant information, but it’s a slow and tedious process. I was thus wondering whether you might have some of this information already.

Please do respond if you’ve got the stats! But I’d say also respond if you have thoughts about other ways of dealing with such claims. I have suggested citing implicit bias as good evidence that things won’t be easier for women and minorities.

3 thoughts on “Reader query: success rates for women and minorities

  1. This seems to me a misguided effort. The claim that a minority or a woman “only” got a certain job in philosophy because of their historically-underrepresented status is simply preposterous–so doesn’t warrant any real attempt at rebuttal. Nor does it seem worthwhile to worry about “the taking away of credit” by naysayers: haters gonna hate, and attempting to prove worthiness to race- or sex-biased peers is generally a losing proposition, in addition to an inherently demeaning one (“Prove to us that you’re not less worthy, as we generally suspect your kind are.”)

    On a more subtle front, numbers might well show that it is more likely, per capita, for a minority or a woman from, say, a roughly top-20 department to get a job somewhere. Why is this supposed to be a problem? The per capita situation might partly represent modest efforts in some departments to change their apartheid-looking and boys-club membership.

    Moreover, the numbers won’t be able to show whether such minorities and women tend to be weaker candidates. That they are not is hardly implausible, given that the hostile (or indifferent) climate throughout philosophy might well in effect select for a pool of minorities and women that overall is more talented, given their interests, and dynamic than the far larger pool of white men. That, nevertheless, modest “affirmative action” sensibilities might often be needed to reflect this in hiring would be no sign that minorities and women successful on the market are likely to be less worthy than their white male counterparts.

  2. I put together the data on New Zealand hiring. You can find that as well as some recent cross-national comparisons of gendered hiring (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand) in Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change?, (eds. K. Hutchinson and F. Jenkins), Oxford University Press 2013. The editors’ introduction and the appendicies are particularly useful for the hard data.
    Happy to discuss this if it will help.

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