Michael Brownstein on Williams and Ceci April 15, 2015
Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci have just published an article in PNAS titled “National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track” (here). The article is striking, and seems to show a great deal of progress in gender equity in hiring (notwithstanding worries that some have expressed that this study demonstrates “reverse discrimination”). There has been interesting discussion of the article on Facebook (FB), the Daily Nous, and New APPS, and most of what I say here is a reworking of points that others have already made. First I’ll make a couple positive points about the article; then raise a worry about the authors’ interpretation of their data; and then raise a few questions about the data.
On the positive side, W&C’s data tells us more than we knew before about how gender attitudes and gender discrimination work. As Edouard Machery said on FB, we need to know the facts in order to create effective interventions. This seems right. The question, I think, is what exactly the study shows, and whether it shows what the authors think it shows.
The title above is for an article about Delivering Equality: Women and Success, a summit-conference at Cambridge University. The opening sentences by the article’s author, Alice Atkinson-Bonasio, tell one why both it and the summit are important:
The theme of gender inequality seems to evoke a certain sense of resistance from both men and women, who argue against “radical feminism” and suggest that women nowadays are empowered to follow whatever career path they choose and succeed on their merits.
The battle, in other words, has been won.
Indeed, as a woman enjoying the successful pursuit of my career of choice, it felt strange to be in a room with some of the most outstanding female researchers in the world to discuss how difficult it still is for a woman to progress in her academic career compared to her male counterparts.
The article is full of ideas and information, and anyone engaged in the area will probably find some of the material very interesting.
I’m going to concentrate on two things: the list of some of the important questions the summit ended up posing, and some of the talks, slide presentations and links to material that are available at the site. The first seem to me at times quite clarifying questions, one which organize the issues in good ways. The second will be very useful for a number of reasons. Entries can help those who haven’t really studied issues like that of implicit bias thoroughly enough to be able to discuss it in challenging contexts. There are videos that are suitable for sharing at meetings and in classes. In fact, the presentations and links are numerous enough that I’ve picked just three. Do go and discover more for yourselves!
There are two contributions by Jennifer Saul, who is a prominent contributor on this blog. My links to her in this post reflect the fact that she is featured in the article.
Some of the many burning questions that emerged from those conversations were:
- How can we create environments that attract and develop talented women, as well as men, throughout all levels of our institutions?
- To what extent are we genuinely committed to becoming more inclusive?
- How can we define, measure and reward success more effectively?
- How can we reframe the debate away from “women’s issues” to talk about effective, modern workplaces?
- What policies, procedures, training, metrics and systems can we improve in order to accelerate progress?
- How can we encourage the emergence of more diverse, visible role models and senior leaders progressing change in academia?
Why Care About How Pixar Draws Faces? March 14, 2015
This post on Tumblr from a few weeks ago shows the range of face shapes that men and boys receive in Pixar movies, and the relative lack of range that women and girls receive.
Why does this matter?
Seeing someone on screen who is not conventionally attractive–in any of the various ways one can fail to be conventionally attractive–but still receive love and be portrayed as worthy of that love is a very powerful thing.
Rarely ever seeing women in TV and films who are not conventionally attractive, let alone seeing them receive love and being portrayed as worthy of that love, can have a profound impact on us (as a culture) and what many of us think it takes to be worthy of love.
It is unlikely that it has completely defined our self-worth, but for many of us, myself included, it is a kind of voice or pressure that we need to shut down, again and again and again, every time we are reminded of our absence from the circle of people who are shown as loved and worthy of love.
This is why the shape of faces matters.
Green shapes on the left are men’s faces. Red shapes on the right are women’s.
Should You Comment on This Post? A Rough Guide, in Addition to the Blog’s General Policies:
- This issue has a deep psychological and emotional resonance for me, as well as for many other people. If commenters want to discuss the account I’m giving, or the premises I’m invoking, etc., I’m happy to engage and discuss, even if a comment challenges aspects of this account. However, this is only if commenters can show good faith and be supportive of people’s struggles to maintain a robust sense self-worth, given the various cultural norms that exist regarding our bodies. If any comment engages in a manner I deem to be unsupportive or even just oblivious–regardless of the commenter’s intention–I am not going to publish it. If you want to comment but do not know or care how to do so without exacerbating the vulnerability and shame many people feel in relation to this issue, please keep your comment to yourself. This post is not for you.
- If a comment raises a challenge or asks for evidence without also contributing something substantial to the discussion, I may or may not post it, and I may not not respond to it if I do post it. We have the internet at our fingertips, so unless a commenter demonstrates that they are a valuable conversation partner (or I already know that they are), I have little inclination to google things for them or spell out my entire justification behind these ideas. The claims here are not novel; people have probably written on them elsewhere.
- Lastly, if I suspect a comment is an attempt to troll, I will not publish it. If you would like to avoid your comment going unpublished despite you having no intention to be a troll or cause troll-like harms, please take the time to ensure your comment cannot be taken that way. If you do not have the time or inclination to do that, please refrain from commenting.
Reflections on trying to organise a panel with more women March 10, 2015
Recently, we—Elisa Freschi and Malcolm Keating—set about organizing a panel for the upcoming ATINER panel. We aimed for a panel which would include significant numbers of women, using suggestions from the Gendered Conference Campaign (GCC) published on the Feminist Philosophers website to achieve this goal. Not only is the result an exciting combination of global philosophical interests which can push back against stereotypes of philosophy as a Western activity, its gender ratio can push back against stereotypes of philosophy as a male activity. Our hope is that the more panels and conferences which work to include women, the more women’s names will come to mind as experts in these topics. Further, hopefully younger generations of women will find it easier to find a path in academic philosophy. And finally, including more women who might otherwise be ignored due to implicit bias means better philosophy will be done.
Click here to read their reflections.
Good for Duke and Project vox March 9, 2015
Project Vox seeks to recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy. We aim to change those narratives, thereby changing what students around the world learn about philosophy’s history.
H/T Charlotte Witt on Facebook.
On trying to acheive gender balance March 4, 2015
in authors interviewed on a TV show. And about the surprising obstacles encountered.
Jennifer Saul on women in philosophy in phil magazine February 28, 2015
In the latest issue of Philosopher’s Magazine Jennifer Saul describes the dearth of women in philosophy, lists a number of causes and describes some remedial steps. The result is a great introduction to a very serious problen in the philosophy profession. It’s also a quick refresher course for those who’ve pick up this material in bits and pieces.
In the UK, women are 46% of undergraduate students in philosophy, but only 24% of permanent staff. Women are approximately 21% of professional philosophers in the US, but only 17% of those employed full-time. These figures are very unlike those for most fields of the humanities, in which women tend to be near or above parity with men. Indeed, they more closely resemble mathematics and physical sciences (biological sciences are much closer to parity). One recent study by Kieran Healy showed philosophy to be more male than mathematics, with only computer science, physics and engineering showing lower percentages of women.
We’re recognized a number of times in this blog that there are other features that can provoke discriminatory reactions in philosophy: disability, race, not having English as your first language, class and being in the glbt community. And no doubt more my memory is not bringing to the fore. O, and then there’s ageism, which I think we don’t discuss much. You are welcome to take note of any of these in discussion.
BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme February 19, 2015
Readers may recall that the BPA and SWIP jointly rolled out a set of good practice guidelines for women in philosophy. Departments were invited to consider signing up for them in full or in part. I’m very pleased to say that Helen Beebee has just posted an initial list of departments that have signed up to the guidelines so far! A few of these have links to their own pages on how they have implemented the policies. More links are coming soon, as they are sent to us. And anecdotally I’ve heard great reports of really productive discussions taking place across the country as the guidelines are being considered.
Anonymous marking makes huge difference in elementary school February 7, 2015
and non-anonymous marking has long-lasting effects.
Beginning in 2002, the researchers studied three groups of Israeli students from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, one graded by outsiders who did not know their identities and another by teachers who knew their names.
In math, the girls outscored the boys in the exam graded anonymously, but the boys outscored the girls when graded by teachers who knew their names. The effect was not the same for tests on other subjects, like English and Hebrew. The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.
For example, when the same students reached junior high and high school, the economists analyzed their performance on national exams. The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better.
They also tracked the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school. After controlling for other factors that might affect their choices, they concluded that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary schoolteachers were much less likely than the boys to take advanced courses.
For more, go here.