Hiring alert: qualifications that count for men may count against women

Virginia Valian argues that qualifications, such as having lived in more than one country, might be seen as a plus in men but not in women.

I wondered about this issue a while back when I noticed that some women with post-docs at an exceptionally prestigous university were not flourishing on the job market to the extent that some male post-docs were. Such casual and unsystematic observations prove nothing, but they did raise a question. And it is possible that what could be taken to show a man had extra time to do research before he takes on a tt job, might in a woman principally be a reminder that she did not get a tt job when she left grad school.

If you are on a search committee, it might well be worthwhile to have an explicit discussion about this. For example, will a role as grad student association president show leadership abilities or will it indicate a failure to concentrate on research? Gender shouldn’t make a difference, but it might.

7 thoughts on “Hiring alert: qualifications that count for men may count against women

  1. Interesting points on how the same achievements or behaviors may be framed differently based on the identity of the person who did them.

  2. This is a huge concern of mine (as a woman on the job market). I have been told for years by my male colleagues that I should have no problem on the job market because I am a woman. Some of these people mean well (they sometimes follow up this comment by saying that they support hiring policies that favor women), but one of the consequences of such talk is that it raises the stakes for not securing a TT job on one’s first go-round.

    (And this is not just the people I know personally; check out any of the bro-y philosophy blogs out there and you will see that this belief that women receive preferential treatment in hiring is widespread.)

    I am worried that anything less than securing a TT job will make me look like a weak job candidate going forward. I am worried that people on hiring committees in the future will wonder, “Why didn’t she get a TT job? Places are bending over backwards to hire women, and if she didn’t get one, that must mean that she’s a mediocre philosopher.”

  3. Anon grad student, as I remember, recent statistics showed that the male-female hires were proportional to graduation rates for phd students. In any case, this blog and others really do need to spread the word. We could do a paper on something like ‘myths that can spoil your search’, and remind people of it early.

  4. None of my female friends have had a problem securing TT positions and I’m not worried about myself when the time comes. Is there really a serious worry here?

  5. Eleanor–given the numbers, your female friends must be an extremely skewed sample of the general job-seeking population! I have no view about this post in general, but I don’t think that it is a reasonable response to say “all the women I know got TT jobs” because if that is true, it is by luck (or because you only know especially superstar job candidates), and not because it is easy for women to get jobs in philosophy. It is not, and I know many women who have not secured TT jobs (some have not secured any jobs whatsoever). We really need to put a stop to this trope that it is easy for women to get jobs in philosophy–it is bad for everyone: the female candidates who then feel immense pressure to do so, the male candidates who, in my experience, usually hold the attitude that they are severely disadvantaged by being male on the job market (some of them are better than others at hiding this attitude from others), and the profession as a whole. If I hear one more person say “oh don’t worry, you’re going to have a really easy time getting a job because you are a woman” I may just pre-emptively leave the profession. Ugh.

  6. Eleanor, glad to hear that all the women among your friends have achieved TT jobs, and given the job-market, wow, you are one worry-free cat. But yes, to answer your question, there really is a serious worry, since evidence suggests that most placements out of graduate school are not TT, and since both men and women are more likely to get temporary and limited-term appointments than they are to get TT jobs with a promise of stability. Given the history of a male-dominated profession and the increasing adjunctification of higher ed, it is a concern for many as to what qualifications might be seen as a plus, and what role data can play.

    Feel free to continue to be unworried. It’s probably a better life without the worrying. But yes, there is certainly something worth worrying about here.

  7. “None of my female friends have had a problem securing TT positions and I’m not worried about myself when the time comes. Is there really a serious worry here?”

    wow. I am at a top-10 (PGR-wise) program, and I know several women who have never secured TT positions or secured them only after multiple years on the market. Your friends may be more the exception than the norm. On the other hand, as Kate Norlock rightly points out, there may be no use to worrying — the market’s hard enough without getting stressed in advance.

    Like anonymous grad student, I have been told many times that I would have no problem getting a job in philosophy because I’m a woman. This has not at all turned out to be true, and I believe my dossier to be a very strong one. The bro-y blogs that are so confident that women are getting ushered into TT jobs always seem to underestimate the boys’ club that still exists — to get on an interview list, it’s *very* helpful to have a friend in a department and men (still) seem to be much, much better connected in this way.

    I personally think that greater anonymization of the job market process at earlier stages (e.g., CVs blinded to both institution and gender) would help everyone involved, though that alone is not a panacea.

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