Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's The Thought That Counts

This is a title I have used before (in 2007!) for a totally unrelated post, but I am going to make use of it again today for another post about job ads.

Years ago, back when some science departments realized they needed to show that they were not obviously discriminating against female applicants even if very few (or none) were interviewed or hired, the preferred mode of proving a theoretical interest in hiring women was to place a job ad in the newsletter of an organization for women in the relevant field.

Of course the ad was also placed in the major venues for such ads as well, but advertising in the women's newsletter was given as evidence that "we tried" by many departments. According to my experience and that of colleagues at other universities, this evidence was always accepted by the various university offices responsible for seeing that hiring procedures followed the university's equal opportunity policies, even if no women were interviewed.

It didn't matter that there was no potential applicant on the planet who would only see the ad in the newsletter and not also in the major job-ad venues of our field.

I see it as a sign of progress that many (most?) departments don't do this anymore. They don't do it anymore because they don't have to make this meaningless gesture to show that they are theoretically willing to consider applications from women because many actually do consider applications from women, and invite them to interview, and offer them jobs. 

Does anyone disagree with that and think that it is a good thing for a department to place such an ad in a newsletter for women or other underrepresented group? (whether or not it is backed up by a record of non-discrimination?)

Do any departments still place ads for tenure-track faculty positions in newsletters of women-in-science organizations? I have not done a systematic survey.

And does anyone know of a human resources/equal opportunity office that has rejected this as the sole evidence of a non-discriminatory hiring process?


fizzchick said...

No clue how HR sees it, but I still see messages on the women's email message group for my field. It doesn't seem to be as many as a few years ago, but that could be the economy - I don't have a longer baseline to judge by.

kamikaze said...

I still see ads like this on women in maths email lists, but usually the department in question actually seems to be looking for women. I have also written ads like this in order to prove to the department that there are women out there. And women replied, too, whereas positions at my department are otherwise often filled by friends of the group, who are -- surprise surprise -- predominantly men. So I think that this is not necessarily a problem.

Jen said...

Our chapter of the Association for Women in Science haa a job board on their website. However, very few, if any, of the posts I've read are for tenure-track academic positions (most of the posts are for industry/biotech positions).

Anonymous said...

We are still required to place ads in these newsletters, as well as in newsletter/job lists for minority scientists in our field. We do this mostly because our higher administration expects this, and it's easier to comply than to change their minds.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I understand how a female scientist would not see the ad in Science or (for a chemist) in C&EN. If this person is searching for a faculty position, they would look where faculty positions are advertised. I don't think my department (Big-10 Chemistry Dept.) has ever advertised anywhere except Chemical and Engineering News. Maybe we have advertised for endowed positions in Science, but certainly not regular faculty positions. No one who is looking for a chemistry faculty position would fail to look at C&EN.


Anonymous said...

I can only dream of a day when the science field I'm in has a women's group and newsletter!

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, the only way to find out if a job was available was to ask someone for a job. This meant if the right person asked me, "is there a job available in your department," I could say "yes" or "no" depending on whether I wanted to hire that particular person. This is the "old boys network."

Affirmative Action says that "jobs must be available to women." To comply with that requirement, jobs must be advertised. Advertising in a womens' groups publication proves compliance with the law.

The law does NOT require that women actually be hired. Of course, interviewing women, or even just applications from women can prove that the job was "available" to women. "Available" means that women were aware of the job.

There are job ads in AASWomen, which is an e-mail that goes out weekly. I have always been opposed to these ads because I think employers use the publication cynically to comply with the law.

Women can read job ads anywhere, just as you point out, FSP. Really, we do not need them in a women's publication to see them.

I think advertising jobs is a step forward. To me, an employer advertising in a "women's" publication is just as likely to be cynical and sexist as sincere.

Cherish said...

I guess I would appreciate it if they did, though I haven't really looked personally.

On the other hand, this discussion has me curious. What, if anything, is done if a department is deemed as not having followed the 'correct' procedures in hiring? Does anything happen at all?

MZ said...

To answer Cherish, it's not common, but I know of searches that have been shut down for violating procedure. It's actually a pretty effective threat, since most depts realize they may not get the position back, and so if they know that they could be kept from hiring anyone at all, it helps people be more mindful.

Anonymous said...

when will be time for feminists to stop complaining about irrelevant details, inventing fake discriminations to get more?

Lorelei said...

I'm curious: Ceci and Williams have made a big pitch claiming that discrimination in searches is not prevalent enough to be concerned about any longer. In your personal experience, do you see it as no longer a threat to women who might want your positions?
Laura Hoopes

Anonymous said...

Maybe a positive reason to do this is to make women aware that the department specifically encourages applications from women?