In just the past week or so, there have been front page articles in the New York Times about the general lack of women ministers of large churches and the decrease this year in the number of women Supreme Court clerks. In the first article, the scariest part was when parishioners were quoted as saying they just didn't like to see a woman up there preaching. In the second article, the scariest part was when one Supreme Court Justice (Souter) said that, alas, none of the top applicants for his clerk positions were women this year. I believe (though of course disagree with) the first sexist statement -- it's the same with other professions, including academia, that many people prefer to get information from deep-voiced, authoritative-sounding men -- but I don't believe the second statement. How lame. I've heard the same excuse for why 0.014% of the math faculty at my university are women. The 'top' candidates are always men. Amazing! If a Supreme Court Justice hired only women clerks, would people assume that the 'top' candidates just happened to be all women? Unfortunately, I cannot set aside my deep cynicism for even a second to believe that would be the case.
When I was in grad school, one of the few other female grad students in my department failed her prelims because her committee just didn't think she was "ready" to complete her degree. Her committee told her that they just couldn't "see" her as a professor yet, but because she'd done so well with the exam, they were willing to give her another try later. (happy ending: she did try again, passed, got a tenure-track position at a large university, and became a prominent researcher in her field). Her research contributions have far surpassed those of contemporaneous male grad students who easily passed their prelims. Why should women continue to be held back because men lack imagination? Why are we hearing the same thing today that men have been saying for centuries?
The article about women ministers had many parallels with the situation of women in academia, including perhaps the implicit equating of 'success' with being hired by a large church (= large research university?). Of course bigger isn't really better for either churches or universities, but in both cases, bigger place = more people, more money, and more prestige, and that's where women leak, fall, or are forcibly ejected from the so-called pipeline.
6 months ago