Many academic fields are staffed by a gender-biased mix of faculty (male-biased overall, though the magnitude and even the direction of the bias varies among fields). In order for that to change, new hiring has to be more diverse than past hiring. How diverse are new faculty hires in ecology? Good question–comprehensive data on the gender balance of recent faculty hires is lacking for most academic fields. And personal anecdotes and experiences provide only a very small sample. Every year there are hundreds of faculty hired in ecology and allied fields, but nobody hears through the grapevine about the outcomes of more than a small fraction of those hires.
So as I did last year, this year I’m once again compiling data on the gender balance of recently-hired tenure-track faculty in ecology and allied fields at North American colleges and universities. Read on if you want to know exactly how I’m doing it, otherwise skip to the next paragraph. I’m doing it by going through the quite comprehensive list of advertised tenure-track positions on ecoevojobs.net from the 2016-17 job season (ignoring those that obviously aren’t going to be filled by ecologists), and figuring out who was hired. I’m only checking positions that seem like they might well by filled by ecologists (so including positions in, e.g., plant biology, fisheries, wildlife, entomology, etc., but not, e.g., comparative anatomy or evolutionary genomics). I’m gathering data through a combination of approaches: digging through department webpages, emailing friends and department chairs to ask them to share publicly-available information (dept. webpages often aren’t up to date and can make it challenging to extract the information I’m seeking), googling for the press releases many colleges and universities put out at the start of the fall 2017 term listing their new faculty, and using the blog to ask people to send me publicly-available information. (I am not seeking or using non-public information.) To keep things manageable, I’m only focusing on tenure-track assistant professor positions, not non-tenure-track positions or positions at higher levels. I’m only including new hires who are ecologists, broadly defined to include, e.g., wildlife, fisheries ecology, conservation, evolutionary ecology, ecological physiology, microbial ecology. So if a position turns out to have been filled by, e.g., a straight-up evolutionary biologist, I don’t count it. Yes, this involves some judgment calls as to who’s an “ecologist”, but I’ve only encountered a few borderline cases. I’m including all colleges and universities, not just research universities. And I’m including the occasional position I stumble across that wasn’t included on the 2016-17 ecoevojobs.net spreadsheet (e.g., spousal hires, and positions that escaped the notice of the folks who contributed to the spreadsheet). I’m into the home stretch of compiling the data, having checked over 250 positions and identified over 150 new hires.
I’m identifying gender through names, and through photographs on department webpages, Google Scholar webpages, and personal lab webpages. I recognize that my use of a gender binary (men/women) isn’t ideal, but it seemed like the only practical choice. I would welcome advice on a better approach if one exists.
I’ll present the results in a post later this fall. But before I do, I’m very curious what you think I’ll find. So below is a poll, inviting you to guess the gender balance of tenure-track assistant professors in ecology and allied fields hired at N. American colleges and universities in 2016-17. Don’t worry if you’re not sure; the poll also asks you to quantify how confident you are in your guess. The poll also asks you a few optional questions about your background and attributes. I have some hypotheses about how people’s backgrounds and attributes affect their perceptions of the current academic job market in ecology.