July 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Jennifer Saul writes:
I write a lot about implicit bias, and about how we should all be taking steps to mitigate it. I’m also Head of Department. So when I was placed in the position of hiring for two permanent posts, I decided to take the opportunity to put in place what seemed to me, based on what I know about implicit bias, to be the best practises. It went remarkably well, so I thought I’d report on what we did, and how and why we did it. And also on some of the difficulties, because it wasn’t QUITE as smooth as it could have been.
1. What we had candidates send: Anonymised CV and writing sample, with identifying information on a detachable cover sheet. In keeping with widespread UK practise, we only asked for names of referees at this stage, not references.
a. Detachable cover sheet only actually makes sense if these things are going to be printed out, and if they’re not being submitted electronically. I’m not sure why I asked for it, but I wouldn’t do it again. For electronic documents, removing it is a tedious bit of editing. Just ask for anonymised CV and writing sample.
b. Candidates weren’t always sure what was meant by ‘anonymised’ or ‘identifying information’. Some worried they should leave off their publications, or place of PhD, or employment. Much better to put in brief clarification of what to leave in. [What we actually wanted left off was just name and email.]
c. The e-recruitment system sticks candidates names into the file names of every file downloaded by those on the committee, adding *another* bit of anonymisation to do. Unless you have a system which doesn’t do this, you’ll need a bit of administrative help retitling all of these. (And we really should advocate for systems that don’t do this!)
It IS vital to have a bit of administrative help– someone who can check to make sure that everything actually is anonymised, who can also write assign numbers to the candidates and keep a list of name-number pairings.
2. How we long-listed: We long-listed on the basis of CV alone, to get down to 15-30 candidates. Our focus was primarily on meeting area needs and publication record.
3. After long-listing, we read anonymised writing samples. We also sent away for references. This decision was the subject of debate. I favoured waiting until we’d shortlisted, because of well-documented biases in reference-writing, and also because of national differences (e.g. US references are MUCH more glowing than UK ones). However, some wanted references to be used in shortlisting. Our compromise was to have references sent to a special email account, to which committee members would only be given access a couple of days before the shortlisting meeting. At that point, they were also given access to the name-number pairings.
4. How we shortlisted: Shortlisting was based on full information: CV, writing sample and references. Fascinatingly, though, even those who had advocated the use of references in shortlisting found them to be not of much interest after close examination of CV and writing sample. All felt that use of references had in the past been a merely apparently useful short-cut, which probably served to short-circuit proper consideration of more significant information. We also found that in many cases we had failed to recognise the written work of those we actually knew, so the anonymity had worked remarkably well.
You might wonder why we didn’t anonymise references. One reason is that it’s a lot of work– need to eliminate every occurrence of name or gendered pronoun. Another is that if a reference is anonymised you can’t try to take into account the tendency for referees to e.g. describe women as ‘hard-working’ and men as ‘brilliant’.
5. How we hired: Our process is a long one by UK standards and a short one by US standards. The main events are job talk (1.5 hours, including discussion) and interview, though there are also a couple of meals. The most important bias-fighting measure I took at this stage was in the discussion of each candidate post-interview. I did not allow overall gestalt evaluations or comparative evaluations until the very end. Instead, we agreed a list of topics we would discuss about each candidate in turn. I listed these on a whiteboard to make sure they got covered in every case. We carefully distinguished such things as written work, job talk, and discussion period so as not to give any of these undue weight. (There’s a good case to be made that written work is a better indication of research ability than job talk under immensely stressful conditions, including in many cases stereotype threat. Yet nonetheless it’s all too easy to focus more on job talk.) Only after each candidate was discussed in detail did we turn to comparative judgements. This lead to much richer and more useful discussion than I’d experienced before in such circumstances (and I’ve lost count of the number of hiring committees I’ve been on!). In both cases, we had very strong fields, and therefore extremely difficult decisions to make. But we all felt that this process helped enormously in making these decisions.
By the way, I’ve cross-posted this at Feminist Philosophers, and a discussion has kicked off. Feel free to join in!
July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Jackie Taylor writes:
I am organizing the third annual mentoring workshop for early career women in early modern and Hume studies. The workshop will be held in conjunction with the international Hume Conference, July 22-26. This year we have mentees from three different continents, and a great group of mentors. The workshop fosters important networking that has helped advance the careers of early career women.
For more, go here.
May 25, 2014 § 2 Comments
The graduate women in the department’s of Philosophy and Logic and Philosophy of Science at UC Irvine have organized the Hypatia Society, a group working to improve the retention of (and experience for) graduate women in our departments. Most recently, we have organized a major conference on gender at UCI (the first for our departments), set for this October – our confirmed invited speakers are Azizah al-Hibri (Richmond), Claudia Card (UW-Madison), Ann Cudd (U Kansas), and Helen Longino (Stanford). There will also be eight contributed talks, and on the second day, there will be an hour-long round-table discussion of the status of women in philosophy. Find out more here. Please, share widely and feel free to submit an abstract! We hope to make this a spectacular event.
May 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
From Antonia Smyth:
I am a Masters student in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and I wanted to share with you a project that I and some fellow students have been working on. Female mentors for undergraduate women are few and far between here, and although a few of us have pursued philosophy, women are greatly outnumbered in our programs, as you might expect.
We created a group called WIPUM (Women in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne) as a supportive environment for women considering continuing with philosophy to share their experiences. So far, we have run several successful events, including social get-togethers, as well as a reading and discussion group. With the support of the faculty’s fantastic Dr. Karen Jones, we now run a weekly session where we discuss women’s representation in philosophy, focusing on texts such as Sally Haslanger’s “Changing the ideology and culture of philosophy: not by reason (alone)” and the books “Singing in the fire: Stories of women in philosophy” and “Women in philosophy: What needs to change?”
We are also hosting a drop-in tutoring workshop for women undergraduates, as a number of them have expressed to us a reluctance to speak in class or to approach lecturers for essay advice. Next semester we also hope to start a lecture series featuring work from women philosophers at the university, both students and staff. We also have a facebook page where we post relevant news, papers, and articles of interest (www.facebook.com/wipum.melb in case you’d like to have a look!)
I just wanted to let others know that setting up WIPUM was not as difficult as I first thought it would be, and that if you’re thinking of doing something like this, you should definitely go for it! Running most of these events was really just a simple matter of booking a room, choosing readings, and publicising them online and in classes. We have received some very positive feedback from both women and men, faculty members and alike, and it has really helped us to bring women philosophers together on campus to come up with strategies for increasing their participation.
We haven’t been running for long, but I have already made a lot of new friends, and have begun to feel less frustrated with the culture present in philosophy than when I started my degree. I would really encourage women in philosophy departments everywhere to try something like this if possible!
April 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
After being ostracized in 2005 for reporting sexual harassment and assault from my dissertation adviser–which he admitted to doing–I am considering going back and finishing my Ph.D.
Yesterday, I spent an hour-and-a-half on the phone with a tenured professor at a well-known university. She had read my story and through a mutual friend, ended up exchanging emails. This exchange lead to the phone call.
She took time out of her day to essentially mentor me and brainstorm what she can do to help secure my “return”.
There is so much hope right now, hope I haven’t felt in years. I keep thinking, “Someone who’s never read my work believes in me.”
She also (unfortunately) understands all too well the PTSD that sometimes haunts you after being harassed and assaulted. It was nice to talk to someone who understood.
April 10, 2014 § 3 Comments
This is a tale of a small thing that someone in my department did to support me, a woman in philosophy. I’m a PhD student at a well-regarded UK institution where there is very good awareness of inclusion issues. At the weekly visiting speaker seminar, I asked a question – the last or next-to-last question in the session. The speaker, though very polite and friendly, didn’t engage at all with my question, instead using his response as an opportunity to discuss something that he’d mentioned in his talk that he’d like to be asked about (but hadn’t been). As far as I could tell, his answers to other questions had all been very much to the point. I’d been really curious to hear what the speaker had to say about the point I raised, but I thought that I must have asked the question badly, or that there was after all nothing interesting in what I was asking, or that I’d misunderstood the answer. Immediately the talk finished, a senior member of staff (male) who I don’t know especially well came up to me and said ‘I thought your question was really interesting, and I don’t think the speaker addressed your point at all. Why don’t you ask him about it now?’ Heartened, I put my question to the speaker as we walked to the pub, he responded enthusiastically and pertinently, and a very interesting and productive conversation ensued. It turned out that I had been raising a worthwhile point, and the issue is one I may write about in my thesis. If I hadn’t received this active encouragement from a senior member of my department, I’d have gone away without an answer to my question, and feeling a bit stupid. Little things like this really make a difference to how I feel about being in philosophy – and I know they make my work better, too.
March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:
This is a difficult post to write – and probably an even more difficult one to read.
I’m writing it because I have had a number of conversations in the past month that have led me to believe that there are more than a few philosophers who have no clue just how damaging even mild forms…
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