Women’s events at recruitment weekends

February 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Lauren Leydon-Hardy writes:

When I visited Northwestern as a prospective student in 2011, I used an opportunity to be alone with a female faculty member to discuss the climate within the department. She was gracious and welcoming, and we spent the better part of half an hour alone in her office, chatting openly about their strengths and their shortcomings. She then directed me to a couple of female graduate students, with whom she encouraged me to continue this conversation. Those conversations were invaluable to me, as a prospective student, facing an enormous question about where to dedicate the next 5-6 years of my life.

Here’s a worry, though – what if some female grads are uncomfortable bringing up these concerns with faculty and current students? What if we’re not doing enough to make those conversations possible?

I worried about these questions. So, two years ago, together with a group of female graduate students, we began hosting an informal get-together for visiting female prospective students. We use this time to host a discussion about the climate in the profession, what it’s like to be a female graduate student at Northwestern, and what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy, more generally. The get-together has been productive for a host of reasons, chief among them being that it establishes a low-stakes social setting in which prospective female graduate students can meet and chat with current female graduate students, to ask difficult questions and explore mutually shared experiences. These conversations are highly relevant to prospective female students making informed decisions about what their best future looks like.

I’m so proud to say that, as of this year, the admissions committee at Northwestern has decided to formalize the women’s get-together, as a standing feature of our annual recruitment weekend. I think this is a tremendous step forward, and signals Northwestern’s continued commitment to fostering an environment that enables every student to put her best foot forward. We have found that this works, and we encourage other departments to try this at home. Set aside time for your visiting female students to sit and chat with current female students. Make space for these conversations. We are sure that you, too, will find it incredibly rewarding.

What Brown is Doing

February 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Brown Philosophy Department is pleased to announce a call for applications for the Summer Immersion Program in Philosophy at Brown University. SIPP@Brown is a two-week residential program for members of traditionally underrepresented groups in philosophy, including women and students of color. This year’s program will run from May 31, 2015 to June 13, 2015 and will feature seminars taught by Brown faculty and the SIPP@Brown research conference. Students will have travel and lodging expenses covered and will receive a $500 stipend. More information is available at http://www.sippatbrown.com. The application deadline is March 15.

I’m standing up to a bully

January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m standing up to the Famous Philosopher bully in my faculty who claims that he is a feminist but belittles, abuses and even rages at any woman who dares to disagree with him. He is rude to any woman who speaks in a meeting, unless she parrots him. He drove my predecessor to despair – literally destroying her health through abusive emails and vicious verbal attacks. Having moved to this new institution recently and learned of the impunity with which this has been allowed to go on, and for how long, I am doing something about it. I’m calling him out: I don’t care who your are, I don’t care how famous you are, no bullying women colleagues. No bullying in the work place. No bullying at all.

What UC Davis is doing about what it’s like

November 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Marina Oshana writes:

We launched a mentoring group for undergraduate women in the Fall of 2013. Our group, u-POW (undergraduate Philosophically Oriented Women) meets for social camaraderie and consciousness raising. Current and planned activities include meetings, movies, conferences, and writing feedback sessions. We are a strong and wonderful group of energetic young women, and dedicated faculty and graduate student mentors.

What Durham’s doing about what it’s like

August 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ian Kidd writes:

The Gender Action Group at the Department of Philosophy, Durham University (UK), was founded, inspired by the work of the British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy UK, as well as by the many other groups and organisations working to improve the representation of women in philosophy. The Group consists of staff, postgraduates, and invited undergraduates and, based on the work of BPA/SWIP, produced a comprehensive fifteen-page set of proposals, covering everything from teaching to research, seminar conduct to implicit bias training, and more besides. Our launch event in May included talks on implicit bias, stereotype threat, and chilly climates, and issues such as work-life balance and balancing families and philosophy. We are currently developing a climate survey for our postgraduates, and are implementing a gender balance survey of all of our undergraduate modules. Early signs show that great progress can often be made very quickly – in next academic year show, we have almost 50/50 balance for our research seminars, and two thirds of our Royal Institute of Philosophy lecturers are women – the best it has ever been. We take inspiration from the other reports that appear on this blog, and are glad to contribute our own efforts.

On mitigating bias in a job search

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!

What Early Modern Scholars are Doing: Mentoring

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.


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