Monday, May 13, 2013

Not The End of Men Quite Yet

Not long ago, a colleague discussed with me the recently-concluded faculty search in his department. His department decided to hire a male candidate, and my colleague told me he was relieved. In fact, he said to me, "It's so good to know that men can still get hired. I thought we could only hire women, so it's nice to know that men can still get hired." This statement seemed a bit bizarre to me for several reasons, including the fact that the department in question had no female assistant professors at the time of this statement. 

It is strange enough that someone would say this to me (but somehow they do anyway), but what does it mean, if anything? Of course, I hope it does not mean that when a woman is hired, some will think that she was hired mostly/entirely because she is a woman and the department finally had to hire one of those. And if anyone does think that, I hope it does not affect how they treat their new colleague and how they view her work as a professor. (I know enough of the context of this particular situation to know that there are unlikely to be problems in that particular case.)

Nevertheless, as long as there are people who believe that an unbroken streak of hiring men somehow means that men can no longer get faculty positions (in STEM fields), the eventual hiring of a female professor is a situation that calls for vigilance -- by administrators and by faculty -- to make sure any woman hired under such circumstances is not at a disadvantage from the very beginning.


Anonymous said...

Probably your colleague was referring to gender quota laws that favour hiring of females with respect to more competent men

Phillip Helbig said...

"Of course, I hope it does not mean that when a woman is hired, some will think that she was hired mostly/entirely because she is a woman and the department finally had to hire one of those."

Of course it means that. What else could it mean? (I'm not agreeing with the sentiment, merely pointing out that, from the context, the meaning is obvious.)

"And if anyone does think that, I hope it does not affect how they treat their new colleague and how they view her work as a professor."

If it becomes obvious that she was hired for being a woman, and not because of qualifications, then of course this should affect how she is treated.

OMDG said...

It means they think of you as a woman first, and a colleague second.

DRo said...

From Anon 1:00am
"Probably your colleague was referring to gender quota laws that favour hiring of females with respect to more competent men"

What gender quota laws are you talking about? I am pretty sure those do not exist in the U.S.

Unknown said...

Wow. I don't know what depresses me more: This story or the comments stream.

Anonymous said...

Every time I see a white male professor I cannot help but think of the fact that the only reason he has the job is because of a patriarchal culture that favors men, and that if qualifications were really what mattered in hires, likely he wouldn't have the job.

I think of him as a man first, a colleague second and I treat accordingly in department meetings.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree to anon 01:38 to some extent. If I meet a female professor I can safely assume she is excellent (otherwise she wouldn't be there), with a male professor I first need a good look at what he has actually done. Though I agree - in the spirit of the previous post by FSP - that some of the man are actually excellent professors.

Anonymous said...

Anon - 5/13 1am
Are you being sarcastic? You realize those don't exist right? And if they did I can not think of a single STEM program I have ever known that would not be in serious violation of them.

Dr. WIS said...

To me, this means that it has gotten to the level of urban legend that affirmative action is so strong now that it is almost impossible to get an academic position unless you are woman or a minority. I have definitely heard this said, and exactly that way, over the past year (by a white male).

It's strange that we have gone from the assumption of under-representation (and that it's not a bad thing) to one of over-representation for women and minorities in science, without ever passing through an actual period of true representation.

Geologist said...

Having just recently gone through several hiring decisions this spring, I have to say that I"m shocked at how many ways people (men and women alike) can find to exclude women from consideration during the academic hiring process.

There seems to always be a reason why the male candidate is favored - from changing what is important in the decision process to bringing up a female candidate's personal situation. In one example I have, the amount of money a candidate had brought in through grants was considered NOT important which was the argument to exclude one female candidate (she had the highest dollar amount in grants) from discussion. Then this argument was changed so that money suddenly DID become important such that another woman was ranked lower because she didn't have a lot of experience in bringing in money (yet).

In another situation, the woman's husband was brought into the discussion!! I even spoke up and tried to point out the gender bias I saw happening but it fell on deaf ears and they simply waited for me to shut up so they could vote for the male. I considered bringing these issues to the administration but I know from experience that I and this issue of gender bias will find no support and I will just be further harassed for upsetting the status quo however momentarily.

I would love to see a situation where women -for once - were favored in a hiring decision.

I also agree that when women are hired, people treat them differently, especially those who did not want them hired during the decision process. I have seen one amazing young female professor's entire career sandbagged by 1 male individual who did his best to undermine her when she was chosen over his preferred candidate.

The whole situation is utterly depressing. I really can understand when young women don't want to go into academia as a career.

Geologist said...

A few weeks after I was hired for my first tenure-track position (I later left it for a better one), I was attending a national research meeting. I was really excited because one of my 'heroes' was going to be at this meeting and I couldn't wait to actually get to meet him.

He was sitting at a table in a restaurant with a group of other scientists and I had been invited to join them. I sat down and introduced myself. When I mentioned that I had just been hired at _____ University, he immediately got upset and then leaned over and shouted into my face that I was ONLY hired because I was female. Apparently a colleague of his was also interviewed for this position and he was outraged that this young woman had been offered the position over him.

It was unbelievable to me that this person that I so looked up to for his research would immediately jump to a conclusion that the hire was all about gender - especially since he had no idea how impressive my CV was to make this conclusion.

Sadly, my experience has been that if you are a woman and get hired, then the vast majority of your colleagues will not see and respect you for your skills. You'll have to work twice as hard and achieve twice as much before you are accepted for your work and not put down for your gender.

Anonymous said...

I recall a meeting where the department was voting on whom to hire, and about 2/3 of the department closed ranks against an excellent female candidate. That was not surprising. Nor was it surprising that some very unfair and unprofessional criticisms were leveled against her. Dismaying, but not surprising. It wasn't even surprising that 2/3 of the women in the department were criticizing her. Again, dismaying, but not surprising.

What was surprising was when one of the women arguing in favor of her said "This candidate has two kids, so I think she'll slow down and become less research-focused." This was intended as a defense of the candidate, in response to people questioning whether she'd be sufficiently devoted to her teaching. And I was all "OK, should we just invite the lawyers in so we can start negotiating the settlement in the inevitable discrimination suit? Because, seriously, this is screwed up."

We ended up hiring a white male who says all the right things.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, please take the higher ground and not try to discriminate the other way, as I see some statements bordering on misandry in the comments here. I am very aware of my unconscious gender bias (as a white male) and raise it quite frequently in hiring decisions so that my peers can help assess its effect. My own realizations on this topic and conscious action is as a direct result of these types of in-person and online discussions (kudos, keep it up). Nonetheless, I am saddened by some of the attitudes against "white males" expressed here, which depresses my desire to invoke such necessary awareness for these important decisions.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:39 PM- If you are referring to anon at 1:38 PM, I think they were just rephrasing what FSP said in her post, but swapping the gender. Some people think it is OK to say this about women, but it seems rather shocking to hear this sentiment expressed about a man. Anon at 4:37 PM as well is expressing a gender-swapped sentiment which is usually something like men are assumed to be competent but women are assumed to be incompetent until proven otherwise (see for example, Academic Jungle's recent post on this topic). So if those are the comments you are not liking, imagine what women think about hearing the more prevalent/socially acceptable versions.

But yes, it is disheartening to hear one's gender, race, etc, disparaged as a group. That is the point.

Tina said...

FSP, I am curious about what you reply to the person when they say this to you?

Anonymous at 9:22pm said...

I want to backpedal slightly:

I noted in my previous comment that talented and successful women are often treated very unfairly in academia. However, I have occasionally observed instances where mediocre women might actually have an advantage. They are not threatening, so mediocre men will sometimes support them to say "See, we have women!" and mediocre women will support them because everyone loves company.

To be clear, I'm not saying that I view any woman who gets a job is one of those mediocrities; most women in academic jobs had to be twice as good to get there. But sometimes, in lousy environments, the local culture will tolerate a successful man but elevate a mediocre woman over a successful woman. It's a horrible double standard. The man is allowed to be successful but the woman is expected to never make anybody uncomfortable.

Unknown said...

Where do you see evidence in these comments of "misandry" or "discriminating the other way"?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've heard people say similar things as the colleague in the original post. I wish they could hear these stories in the comments.

I don't understand their mindset. Is it some kind of pushback? Do they feel threatened? Reminds me of the whole 'reverse racism' thing. Ugh.

EliRabett said...

What Tina said. The clown was obviously trolling

Anonymous said...

From anon 04:37 in response to anon 10:39. To clarify I think equally well of women and men. I assume there is about an equal amount of mediocre women and men in the world. However, most female professors we have today were held to a higher standard then men to get that position. This means that when you meet a female professor the change that she is an excellent scientist is higher than when you meet a male professor. In fact, we will know the day that true equality has been reached when also a significant of mediocre women are professor. So I highly welcome the mediocre women!

Anonymous said...

Hey, know what would be awesome, hiring people based on merit. The contents of their cranium, that sort of thing. It drives me bat-poop crazy to see all this, particularly in science where there are quantifiable metrics, and, ostensibly, a culture of objectivity.

My best consolation, usually, is to paraphrase the Simpsons, "those people are old, and they'll die soon."

I've seen all kinds of that cr@ap, going both ways. I know of a case where they hired a FSP who insisted that her MSP husband be hired at the same time. The University was desperate to have more FSPs, so agreed.

Anonymous said...

Universities in general have policies for spousal employment. Not sure if that had anything to do with her gender..

Anonymous said...

Mediocre men who get promoted are actually not so mediocre. They're just mediocre at science but adept at shmoozing, self promotion and playing their cards right. The same rules don't apply to women though. Have a woman shmooze, promote herself and try to play her cards right and she gets labeled a bee-otch by the ol boys club.

Notice I am not saying ALL men have this privilege. I know many men who got pushed out of science because they couldn't or didn't want to have to shmooze and self promote and all that. They were typical socially awkward geeks who loved science and wanted their science to speak for itself. Such men ended up getting bull dozed over by their scientifically mediocre peers who did promote themselves blatantly.

But the thing is that that when women are willing to promote themselves it's less likely to work because of the double standard. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 09:51:00

It did.

1) My advisor was one of those people who doesn't have an internal filter and an inability to shut the ol' 3.1415 hole.

2) My spouse worked in that lab.

As far as spousal hiring goes, I would tend to doubt a formal policy exists. Even if so, this was at a major research university, and the were both hired into the same sub discipline in the same department.

Anonymous said...

I feel like the bias is either "against" or "in favor" of the female candidate. The worst for me was interviewing for an academic position at 7.5 months pregnant, as an opportunity hire off cycle. It was the first time I felt openly biased against. One female professor only wanted to talk about babies, even as I tried to steer the conversation away. Several comments about how I was probably hungry (because of a late lunch), and how it was amazing I could stand for that long giving a talk, were just a few of the comments. The proposal talk seemed like an open forum to discuss my husband (also in science). In the end my spouse and I landed two jobs at another university.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 05:50:00

There is another way of looking at the situation you describe.

Perhaps some scientists believe their work is so awesome that everyone should just see how brilliant they are and give them a job because they are just so smart and brilliant. But you know what? People are busy with their own stuff. You need to show them why your work matters *to them* and get their attention. This is part of your job as a scientist. If you don't effectively publicize your work, then it doesn't impact the scientific community, and you really might as well not have done it. All of this takes time and effort to do, and furthermore it involves a set of skills that take time and intentional effort to develop. So you might get less science done in the short term because you are investing your time elsewhere. But in the long term you will have a much bigger impact.

Some scientists say they "want their science to speak for itself" and look down on colleagues who invest effort into effectively publicizing their results (which you have labelled "blatent self-promotion") and into effectively collaborating with others, and being a good colleague and member of the scientific community (which you have labelled "schmoozing"). This attitude is often unfair to their colleagues, and limits the impact of their scientific work (and therefore also their career progress). Their colleagues who do invest in those areas have realized that communicating your results and collaborating effectively can be an important part of making an impact in science, and they are acting accordingly.

Anonymous said...

In answer to the Anon post at 5-16, 9:31 am:

Bella Abzug, Congressional Rep from NY , 1971 to 1977, famously said "Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel."

Unfortunately, it does seem like we are still struggling the with first.

I'd like to use this opportunity to pat myself on the back again for not having gone into academia. With all the sexist b.s. I encounter in my work, I think I like the directness and money-driven demands of the construction industry.

AnthroBabe said...

Anonymous at 9:22 pm on 5/13/13 - Wow. Just had pretty much the same exact bullshit happen for some hiring decisions recently. OWM (Old white males) loving the YMN (young white male) and being *venomous* about the YWF (young white female) who was up for the position. I no longer have the wool pulled over my eyes and know who my allies are (not many.)

Strung out cyclist said...

"If I meet a female professor I can safely assume she is excellent (otherwise she wouldn't be there), with a male professor I first need a good look at what he has actually done."

I'd feel dishonest if I didn't second this. All of the professors I've met who are female were nothing short of competent. The same cannot be said of the men--there are a lot of very incompetent male professors out there.

Of course to suggest that there should be more incompetent female professors is silly. Rather we should ask the question, why are there so many incompetent male professors?

Actually, the answer is quite simple. Partly it's just that there are more men. On the other hand, power and status are important to men's mating chances, less so to women, so there is more incentive to use deception to get them.

Anonymous said...

@anon 5/18 11:42

I disagree that part of a scientist's job should be to promote thmselves. Is part of being a doctor or teacher or police officer to promote yourself?

Publishing and presenting your work at conferences, when done for the purpose of documenting what was done and who it might help, serves the greater good.

Lying or exaggerating the importance of ones work, jet setting all over the globe on tax payer money (as most research funding is from the government) without tangible impact on the quality of the science coming from you as a result, is a waste of resources.

A scientist should be able to a job or get promoted based on the quality of their scientific work rather than who they are friends with. I know this isn't the case, and one reason it isn't is because we broaden the definition of scientific work to include things like self promotion and shmoozing. Whenever resources are scarce (job positions, funding) and the supply of qualified candidates exceeds the demand, then these extra things that are peripheral to the job become more and more important to give you an edge over the competition. I just find it disappointing that these things are no longer peripheral to the job but seem to have become central to the job.

There is a place for managers and PR specialists. Every organization needs them. I just feel that a scientist should not have to spend more time on PR than in the lab.

Anonymous said...

This popped up on the news aggregator:

Made me think of some of the statements that have been posted on this blog under GDW.

Have fun with that. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Several comments about how I was probably hungry (because of a late lunch), and how it was amazing I could stand for that long giving a talk, were just a few of the comments.

Seriously, showing concern over your advanced pregnancy stage is sex discrimination?

I'd kill to live in a world where those are the "egregious" cases of sexism.

EliRabett said...

"Is part of being a doctor or teacher or police officer to promote yourself? "

Why yes, why do you think that physicians advertise and teachers and police vie for promotion?

Anonymous said...

"I disagree that part of a scientist's job should be to promote thmselves." (etc.)

But surely we can all agree that scientists should publicize their ideas in a way that is both visible to and understandable by their peers (also, accurately and honestly)? Doing this takes time, effort and money.

If you do brilliant work, but nobody knows you have done it because you present it in a way that it is not visible and/or is so poorly presented that is impossible for people who are not you to understand, you pretty much might as well have stuck it under a rock and then burned it, because it has not furthered the scientific discourse in any way. A lot of good ideas don't gain traction simply because they have not been clearly explained or publicized well.

If people are aware of your ideas, they are more likely to pick them up and develop them further, therefore your ideas will develop much further than you would be able to take them on your own. This benefits science.

Again on the "schmoozing" ... everyone would prefer to hire or work with work with a person who is both competent and likeable. But it's true: most people would rather hire a "lovable fool" than a "competent jerk".

There is an easy way to deal with this: don't be a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Re to spousal employment (Anon @ 5/17/2013 07:34:00 AM); Google it. It is listed on many university's website. It's a thing.

Anonymous said...

I know this thread is long-dead, but...
Seriously, showing concern over your advanced pregnancy stage is sex discrimination?

I'd kill to live in a world where those are the "egregious" cases of sexism.

I wonder if those comments would sound as much like "concern" to you if they were directed at a fat man?

speakertoanimals said...

As someone who mainly lives on life's "lowest difficulty setting" (see John Scalzi's excellent essay of the same title) I have to say that the person who said the remark that prompted this is not necessarily a misogynist. In my small field (astronomy) EVERY single tenure track job available for the next decade COULD be filled by a qualified female astronomer. After that decade, there would still be more male than female tenure track astronomers and many more male full profs. (note: neither I nor anyone else has ANY idea based on science what the "natural" gender ratio "should" be in any field).