Like last year and the year before that, this year I once again quantified the gender balance of newly-hired tenure-track asst. professors in ecology and allied fields at N. American colleges and universities. I also conducted a poll asking readers what they expected me to find. See here for details on how I compiled the data, and why I went with a gender binary even though that’s not ideal.
This is a long post; grab a coffee and get comfortable! Diversity and equity are important issues on which people have strongly-held views. That’s why I’ve tried to discuss the results thoroughly and carefully, and to anticipate and address questions that readers are likely to have. I urge you to read the whole post rather than just reading the headline results. But if you insist on skimming, I’ve broken the post up into bold-headed subsections, which are listed below. Pick the ones that interest you.
- Headline results: 59% of tenure-track asst. professors of ecology hired in N. America during the 2017-18 job season are women. It’s 57% women over the last three years. (UPDATE #2: As of May 12, 2019, it’s down to 58% women hired in 2017-18, because I’ve gone back and ID’d some hires I wasn’t able to ID when this post was first published. That’s obviously a very minor change. It’s still 57% women over the last 3 years.)
- The 95% confidence interval is 55-59% women over the last three years. (That reflects UPDATE #2)
- No, the headline results are not a product of biased sampling.
- The gender balance of recently-hired ecology faculty varies a bit with the research intensiveness of the institution.
- Ecologists as a group remain largely unaware of the headline result, or else can’t quite believe it.
- When placed in the context of other data, particularly on gender balance at other career stages, these results tell a different and more complicated story about gender diversity and equity in N. American academic ecology than you probably realize.
- No, the headline results don’t indicate “reverse discrimination”
- Bottom line: these results are good news. They represent real, systemic progress for N. American academic ecology in one specific but important area. (UPDATE: As I said in the post but which I’ll now say up top here: no, these results do not mean that everything is great for women in ecology now [it’s not], or that women in ecology should all be happy [it’s obviously not my place to tell anyone how to feel], or that people should stop working to improve diversity and equity in ecology [because we should keep working].)
59% 58% of tenure-track asst. professors of ecology hired in N. America during the 2017-18 job season are women. It’s 57% women over the last three years.
I ID’d the gender of
161 176 newly-hired TT asst. profs in ecology and allied fields (e.g., fish & wildlife, evolutionary ecology, behavioral ecology, etc.) hired at N. American colleges and universities in the 2017-18 job season. That 161 176 includes a couple of 2016-17 hires I didn’t discover until this year (it’d be a pain to go back and update last year’s post yet again so I just folded those newly-discovered 2016-17 hires into the 2017-18 data). That’s out of 291 positions I ID’d or tried to ID this year. I try to ID every N. American TT asst. prof position that could possibly have been filled by an ecologist. 95 102 of those 161 176 new hires ( 59% 58%) are women. Combining with data from previous years, over the previous three years 57% ( 314/548) (321/563) of recently-hired TT N. American asst. profs in ecology and allied fields are women.
UPDATE #2: the crossed-out text reflects a minor update to the data as of May 12, 2019.
The 95% confidence interval is 55-59% women over the last three years.
Gender balance of newly-hired ecology faculty doesn’t vary much from year to year. It was 54% in 2015-16, 59% in 2016-17, and
59% 58% in 2017-18. So if you’re worried that next year’s proportion of women might be a lot lower than this year’s, stop worrying. Seriously, stop. Lots of TT ecologists get hired in N. America every year, and the factors that determine the gender balance of new TT ecology hires change very slowly. For those reasons, the headline result is going to be almost exactly the same every year. (UPDATE #2: crossed out text in this paragraph reflects a minor update to the data on May 12, 2019)
Further, I sampled a large majority of the finite population of TT asst. profs of ecology hired in N. America over the past 3 years. The precise size of the population isn’t known for certain, but no matter what it is, the confidence interval around my estimated proportion of 57% women is extremely narrow. If 750 TT ecologists were hired in N. America over the past 3 years (a plausible number), then the 95% c.i. around my estimate of 57% women is 55-59% women. (Normal approximation to the binomial distribution for a sample from a finite population)
So if you’re trying to remember the headline result, you should not remember it as “about 50% women over the last three years”! 50% is well outside the 95% c.i. Nor should you round off and remember the headline result as “about 55% women over the last three years”. That value is barely inside the 95% c.i. You should remember the headline result as “almost exactly 57% women over the last three years“. (See the poll results below to appreciate why I’m banging on about this…)
No, the headline results are not a product of biased sampling
No, I didn’t oversample (or undersample!) positions filled by women. I sampled quite randomly in my effort to census everyone. And even in the extremely implausible event that the positions I failed to ID have a very different gender balance than those I ID’d, my sample size is so big relative to the size of the finite population that the estimated proportion of women would only change by about a percentage point. See last year’s post for illustrative calculations if you don’t believe me.
The gender balance of recently-hired ecology faculty varies a bit with the research intensiveness of the institution
There’s a trend for less research-intensive institutions to have a slightly greater proportion of women among their recently-hired ecology faculty. Exactly how strong the trend is depends on how you classify institutions. Combining this year’s data with previous data, over the past three years it’s been 54% women at R1s and 59% women at non-R1s. Over the past two years (the only two for which I compiled full Carnegie classification data), it’s 55% women at research universities (R1-R3 institutions) and 63% women elsewhere.
Qualitatively, this result mirrors a long-standing feature of US academia as a whole. (see here for some not-quite up to date data).
Ecologists as a group remain largely unaware of the headline result, or else can’t quite believe it
As in each of the past two years, I polled ecologists asking them to guess the gender balance of this year’s newly-hired TT N. American ecology asst. profs. The poll respondents are a self-selected non-random sample of mostly-ecologists. But it’s a large and diverse enough sample (193 respondents, comprised of 33% faculty, 33% postdocs, 25% grad students, 9% other) to be worth talking about.
Two years ago, the guesses were way too low: the modal guess was less than 40% women. Last year, the guesses were better, because some respondents had seen the previous year’s data, but still substantially too low: the mean guess was 46% women (median 48%). This year’s guesses improved over last year’s, but were still too low: the mean guess was 50% women and the median was 53% women. Here’s a histogram of all the guesses:
You’ll notice that histogram is bimodal. That’s because many respondents hadn’t read (or didn’t recall) the data from previous posts, whereas others had. Respondents who hadn’t seen or didn’t recall my previous posts mostly guessed way too low. Here’s a histogram of their guesses:
Respondents who hadn’t read and recalled my previous posts are surely more representative of ecologists as a whole than respondents who had. We have a big audience for a science community blog (thanks for reading, everyone!). But even our blog’s big audience comprises only a small minority of all ecologists, or even just of N. American ecologists.
Further, even respondents who reported reading and recalling my past posts still mostly missed low. Their guesses averaged 53% women, with guesses that missed low vastly outnumbering those that missed high:
When asked for their reasons for guessing as they did, many respondents who reported reading and recalling my previous posts said they based their guesses on those previous posts. But most of those respondents apparently misremembered those previous posts as reporting a lower percentage of women than they actually did! For instance, one respondent wrote of their guess “It is based on previous posts!”–and guessed 52% women. Another wrote “Hoping it is similar to what I think I remember from last year”–and guessed 43% women. Several other respondents said flat out that they remembered last year’s data as 53-55% women (it was actually 59%).
Respondents who reported other bases for their guesses (e.g., the current faculty gender balance in their own department; recent hiring in their own department; their experiences as women in science) were mostly way off. They mostly guessed that recent ecology faculty hiring is heavily male-skewed.
Humorous interlude: the respondent who guessed 58.38316483% women (yes, really) based on “extrapolation from previous years, plus a super-secret algorithm to derive the EXACT answer out to 9 decimal points of accuracy” made my day. THAT WAS THE MOST ACCURATE GUESS IN THE ENTIRE POLL! 😛 (Seriously, it was!) (UPDATE #2: and the update to the data made it even more accurate than it initially appeared!)
I also asked respondents to provide subjective confidence intervals on their guesses. Specifically, I asked respondents to complete the sentences “I’d be surprised if the true value was lower than…” and “I’d be surprised if the true value was greater than…” Most respondents reported quite wide confidence intervals. The average width was 26 percentage points among those who hadn’t read or didn’t recall previous posts, and 23 percentage points among those who had. The correct answer (59% women) will surprise 19% of respondents, all of whom guessed too low.
I confess I find these poll results depressing. I write these posts to try to inform ecologists about progress in one specific area of diversity and equity in ecology. And I’ve mostly failed. Word of these posts hasn’t spread at all beyond this blog’s regular readers as far as I can tell. Those regular readers are a small fraction of all ecologists. And the majority of our regular readers apparently either don’t quite believe the data or don’t recall the data correctly. It’s funny: respondents mostly report being very uncertain as to the true percentage of women among newly-hired ecology faculty. You’d think that near-census data would completely swamp people’s flat, “uninformed” priors. But no–even people who read and recalled previous posts mostly guessed too low and still reported considerable uncertainty in their guesses.
My interpretation of this is that, at a subconscious level, ecologists as a whole are incredibly pessimistic about the gender balance of recent ecology faculty hiring. Ecologists mostly say that they’re very unsure what the gender balance of recently-hired ecology faculty is. But deep down, most ecologists are actually sure that it’s heavily male-skewed, probably often without even realizing just how sure they are. To the point that they not only don’t let the data completely swamp their “priors”, but they actually misremember the data.
I’m absolutely not criticizing anyone for this. I can totally appreciate why ecologists, and indeed people in general, would be subconsciously or even consciously pessimistic about, well, anything these days (I sure am…). But understandable as generalized pessimism is, I think it’s a shame if it prevents us from recognizing areas of progress.
When placed in the context of other data, particularly on gender balance at other career stages, these results tell a different and more complicated story about gender diversity and equity in N. American academic ecology than you probably realize
Here is a bit of context for that headline number of 57% women among recently-hired N. American TT asst. profs in ecology:
- Women have comprised 58-60% of US bachelor’s degree recipients in biological sciences every year since 2002, and have been >50% since at least 1995 (source: NSF). Most though not all people who eventually go on to become ecology profs in N. America have US bachelor’s degrees in a biological sciences field (remember, Canada is a small country compared to the US).
- Women have comprised 55-58% of US master’s degree recipients in biological sciences every year since 2002, and have been at or above 50% every year since 1996 (same source as previous bullet). So, a touch lower than their proportion among recent-ish undergraduate degree recipients.
- Women have comprised about 53% of US PhD recipients in biological sciences every year since 2010, and have been at or above 50% every year since 2008 (they were ~38% back in 1995; same source as previous bullet). So, a bit lower than their proportion among recent-ish master’s degree recipients. Drilling down by subdiscipline, in 2015 women earned 51% of US PhDs in ecology, 53% in wildlife biology, and 54% in environmental sciences (source), and they’ve consistently comprised a slightly majority of US PhD recipients in ecology-related disciplines in recent years.
- Women comprised 46.2% of US ecology postdocs as of 2013. Source: Hampton & Labou. So, a bit lower than their proportion among recent-ish US PhD recipients in ecology and allied fields.
For a more sophisticated statistical analysis of the NSF data summarized above, I urge you to read Shaw & Stanton (2012). Great, important paper that deserves to be much better known.
You may also be wondering about post-asst. professor career stages. It doesn’t do much good to hire women at the asst. professor level if they don’t get tenure. For data on that, see Shaw & Stanton (2012). Conditional on reaching the asst. professor stage, women in US life science fields are actually a bit more likely than men to reach the associate professor stage. That’s been true since the mid-1990s. Promotion to associate professor ordinarily is associated with (or else precedes) the granting of tenure. I’m sure you’re surprised to learn this–I was too! (Note that you have to interpret that conditional probability carefully–it definitely does not imply “reverse discrimination” against men at the tenure stage!)
I emphasize that these data are only a bit of the information one would ideally like to have to fully understand the drivers of gender balance along the career path leading to academic ecology (compare, e.g., this deep dive into the drivers of male skew along the career path in academic economics). But with that caveat in mind, the overall picture here is hard to reconcile with any simple “blanket” story about gender diversity on the path to becoming a N. American academic ecologist. Social forces, individual choices, and other factors operating between birth and college graduation skew US bachelor’s degree recipients in the life sciences somewhat towards women. Then, factors operating at each stage between bachelor’s degree and postdoc reduce the proportion of women by a few percentage points at each stage. Then, factors operating in between the postdoc and newly-hired TT asst. professor stage increase the proportion of women ecologists back to what it was at the bachelor’s or master’s degree stage.
So the famous “leaky pipeline” metaphor is now a bad metaphor for the career path in academic ecology, because the proportion of women goes up at some points along the path, rather than always going down. We need a good memorable metaphor for that. Maybe the “sawtooth”?
One topic I hope we’ll discuss in the comments is what these fluctuations imply for efforts to further improve diversity and equity in N. American academic ecology. What efforts would further improve matters, and what efforts would be misplaced?
No, the headline results don’t indicate “reverse discrimination”
As a further bit of context (and because I know someone will ask about it so I might as well bring it up…), no, there’s no appreciable difference in the qualifications of men and women recently hired into N. American TT asst. professor positions in ecology and allied fields. Take it from the guy who has spent more hours than he cares to count looking at the cv’s, websites, ResearchGate pages, and Google Scholar pages of several hundred recently-hired ecologists. Unless you’ve done that too, you should just trust me on this. 🙂 I really wish this didn’t need saying, but it is not the case that N. American colleges and universities are engaging in “reverse discrimination”: systematically hiring unqualified or less-qualified women ecologists as the expense of qualified or more-qualified men. Nor is it the case that the recently-hired TT women ecologists are better qualified than men on paper. FWIW (not much…), here are a couple of very crude bits of data on two aspects of “qualifications” to illustrate this. First, recently-hired men and women ecologists don’t differ in years of experience. The median PhD year for newly-hired (i.e. 2017-18) N. American TT ecology asst. profs is 2014 for both men and women, and the means differ by only 5 months (mean PhD year 2013.4 for men, 2013.8 for women). Second, TT women ecologists hired over the last two years do have modestly lower h-indices than men on average, but that difference goes away almost completely when you account for the fact that more women get hired at less research-intensive institutions. Within institution types, men and women ecologists hired over the past two years had very similar h-indices on average at the time of their hiring (bachelor’s colleges: men 6.9, women 6.6; master’s universities: men 7.7, women 6.7; research universities: men 10.3, women 9.4). As an aside: for a host of reasons that are hopefully sufficiently obvious that I don’t have to list them, you should not look at those h-index data and conclude that recently-hired women ecologists are even slightly less-qualified than men on average. I interpret these data as indicating that there are systemic forces that make women disproportionately likely to obtain teaching-focused faculty positions in ecology, and that people (men or women) who obtain teaching-focused faculty positions in ecology tend to be less productive researchers on average (at least by one admittedly-crude measure) than those who obtain research-focused faculty positions.
Bottom line: these results are good news. They represent real, systemic progress for N. American academic ecology in one specific but important area.
These data are good news! They represent real, systemic progress. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that TT ecology faculty hiring in N. America doesn’t have a systemic problem with hiring women anymore, insofar as one can judge that from the available data. At a systemic level, failure to hire women ecology faculty in N. America looks to me like a solved problem.
Which isn’t an argument for no longer caring about diversity and equity of course! Presumably, a big reason why it’s a solved problem is because many individuals and institutions take diversity and equity seriously these days. Nobody should stop taking it seriously!
My interpretation of these data (and I emphasize that it is an interpretation) is that these days in ecology, multiple excellent women and men apply for most N. American TT faculty positions (a state of affairs that of course reflects everything that shapes people’s career choices and outcomes at the pre-faculty stages). So search committees for most ecology positions will have the opportunity to choose between strong men and women candidates. To help them choose well, search committees these days get trained about bias, diversity, and equity, and have to obey HR rules designed to ensure fairness (e.g., rules obliging search committees to ask all candidates the same questions in the same order during interviews). And many search committees these days are keen for their departments to become more diverse on various dimensions, including gender. Which is a good thing for them to want. As I wrote last year, individual faculty don’t exist in a vacuum. Departments, and the colleges and universities comprised of them, are institutional wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts (Brian has a half-joking post on this). Those institutional wholes are best able to teach and inspire the full range of students who come through their doors, and best able to pursue new knowledge, if they’re comprised of diverse, complementary mixtures of people. So gender and other personal attributes are among the many things that search committees consider when they get down to making difficult judgment calls about whom to hire from among (typically) 3-5 well-qualified candidates, each of whom would be an asset to the hiring department in their own unique way (i.e. there’s rarely a single “best” candidate). The net outcome is that, at an aggregate statistical level, the proportion of women among recently-hired TT N. American ecology faculty ends up being modestly higher than the proportion of women among ecology postdocs, without any appreciable differences in average on-paper qualifications between newly-hired men and women.
That interpretation is consistent with the small amount of hard data I’m aware of on actual faculty search committee decision-making. For instance, as of 2004-5, a NRC study found that women were receiving 45% of biology PhDs, comprised 25% of TT applicants in biology, got 30% of TT job interviews and 34% of TT job offers.
Does this mean everything is perfect when it comes to diversity and equity in ecology? Obviously not! So let me emphasize all the many things the data in this post don’t tell you. They don’t tell you whether any particular ecology faculty search was conducted fairly or any particular applicant was treated professionally (e.g., some applicants still get asked “illegal” questions). They don’t tell you anything about diversity, equity, and fairness in any other area of science–grant-getting, paper-publishing, university committee service, faculty salaries, invitations to do peer review, seminar invitations, etc. They don’t tell you anything about the day-to-day lived experience of women ecologists–how often they’re talked over or sexually harassed or etc. (individual experiences and aggregate data are complements, not substitutes…) They don’t tell you anything about ecology faculty hiring in relation to other dimensions of diversity. They don’t tell you anything about what’s going on with faculty hiring in any other field, or anywhere outside North America. And they don’t somehow make up for or erase past hiring inequities or ongoing problems in any other area. Nobody should take from this post the message that everything is now perfect for women in ecology (because it’s not), or that people should stop advocating to make things better for women in ecology (because we shouldn’t)!
By the same token, knowledge of all those other things doesn’t tell you anything about gender diversity in N. American ecology faculty hiring. I suspect a big reason that many ecologists mistakenly think that recent ecology faculty hiring remains skewed towards men is because they overgeneralize from unrelated experiences and data. A key broad insight of feminism, and of ecology, is that “everything is connected”. That what happens in one area of life has consequences in other seemingly-unrelated areas of life. So overcoming systemic inequities requires joined-up, systemic thinking. But joined-up, systemic thinking isn’t the same as overgeneralization. It doesn’t mean assuming that Everything Is Terrible. William Gibson (sort of) said that “The future has arrived–it’s just not very evenly distributed.” He wasn’t talking about gender diversity and equity in ecology, but he could’ve been. When it comes to gender diversity at a systemic level in N. American ecology faculty hiring, the future has arrived.
After reading a draft of this post, Meghan made a very good point to me that I’m sharing with her permission. Why does many women’s lived experience in ecology often contrast with the good news of the headline results? Well, one reason among others is that many women faculty are serving on search committees and working hard to make that good news happen. Which can be exhausting and not always rewarding work, for instance if you have to fight against biases against women applicants. I think that point generalizes. The hard work of driving progress can be so exhausting and unrewarding that your day-to-day lived experience hides from you the very systemic progress you’re helping to drive.
If current trends hold, how long would it take for N. American ecology faculty to reach gender parity? A ballpark answer is “about 20 years, or a bit less”.* See the epic footnote if you care how I calculated that answer.
In conclusion, I hope this post is good news to you too, and I hope you’ll remember it and share it widely. As I said, it’s good news only about one very small and specific bit of the world–but a small and specific bit that I’m guessing many of you care a lot about. I would like to think that this good news could be universally known and celebrated among ecologists without diminishing–indeed, enhancing!–ecologists’ collective motivation to continue to work for positive change.
As always, looking forward to your comments. A couple of reminders, to help ensure a productive thread. First, you can comment anonymously if you wish, just fill in a made-up name and email address if WordPress asks you for them (but remember that the moderator–that’s me–can see the IP address from which you’re commenting). Second, we welcome disagreement with the post, and with other commenters, but please treat each other with respect. Personal attacks, offensive comments, and trolling are out. Such comments will be blocked/deleted. A second attempt to make such comments will get your IP address blocked. And you’re on thin ice if your comment seems to indicate that you didn’t read the post. We’re proud to have amazing, thoughtful, professional commenters–let’s all keep up that proud tradition.
*I can’t answer exactly because I don’t know various bits of information you’d need to give an exact answer. But we can ballpark it pretty well by making some simple assumptions. Let’s assume that the total number of ecology faculty remains constant. That’s a reasonable approximation, since it only changes very slowly (aside: slow shrinkage of the total number of faculty would slow progress towards gender parity, while slow growth would accelerate progress) Let’s assume that every faculty career lasts 35 years. That is close to the average length, plus random variation around the average is irrelevant for our purposes, and changing the number slightly would only change the answer slightly. Let’s assume that ecology faculty career length doesn’t vary with gender. That’s a reasonable assumption. For instance, there’s no hint of a gender gap among recently-hired ecologists in how long ago they got their PhDs (see above). And I’m not aware of any data suggesting that women faculty tend to retire at a different age than men (happy to be pointed to data on this). Let’s assume that current faculty are uniformly distributed from 1-35 years into their careers. That’s not actually true, but other assumptions wouldn’t dramatically change the answer. Let’s assume there’s no gender variation in career stage. That’s a conservative assumption; in fact, the average woman faculty member is earlier in her career than the average man, primarily due to the male skew of faculty hiring decades ago. Every time someone’s career ends, they’re replaced with a new asst. prof; that’s what holds total faculty numbers constant. 57% of those new asst. profs of ecology are women. Assuming a constant 57% seems reasonable, given that proportions of women at previous career stages seems to be constant or only changing very slowly. In this hypothetical scenario, in 35 years N. American ecology faculty will be 57% women, no matter what their starting proportion. That’s because 1/35 of faculty are replaced each year and so it takes 35 years (the length of a career) to completely replace the faculty. Gender parity would be reached somewhat before that, but how long before would depend on the starting proportion of women. For instance, if ecology faculty are currently 40% women (that’s just a rough guess based on data here), then if I’ve done my sums right it would take 20 years of hiring 57% women/year to reach gender parity. In reality, it would be a bit faster than that because in the real world ecologists who retire in the near future are mostly going to be men. If you want to reach gender parity substantially sooner, you have to almost stop hiring men. For instance, starting from a faculty comprised of 40% women and retaining our other simplifying assumptions, you’d need to hire 75% women every year to reach gender parity in 10 years. I know no one would actually recommend hiring almost-exclusively women. I’m just running the numbers to illustrate how long it takes faculty gender balance to change. Faculty careers last a long time! (Aside: I feel like everything in this footnote is boringly obvious–is it?)
Click through for my reply there. Short answer is “no”.
This lines up with anecdotes we discussed in last year’s post on gender balance in ecology faculty hiring. But note that those were anecdotes rather than systemic data, and further they were anecdotes from research universities.
And a follow up speculation from Joel:
Our own Brian McGill had a similar speculation in the discussion of last year’s post IIRC. I’ve had the same thought myself. But of course, can’t know for sure without systemic data.
With which Dan Bolnick for one agrees:
Data from ecoevojobs.net suggests that the applicant pool for N. American TT ecology faculty positions is about 47% women: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/a-statistical-profile-of-recent-eeb-faculty-job-applicants/.
Those data also indicate that women ecology faculty job seekers get slightly more interviews and offers than men on average, despite applying for similar numbers of positions on average. Which is consistent with the hiring data in this post, and my interpretation that many ecology faculty search committees consider gender as one factor among many others.
Click through for my reply there. Short version is “No, I haven’t done this”.
Via Twitter, where apparently everybody has decided to comment rather than commenting here. [sighs]
Thanks for doing this — I am heartened by this result, but not shocked (though if I had taken the poll I likely would have under-predicted the results). I agree that it’s good news to see this trend, and I’m glad you addressed the “no, it’s not reverse discrimination” argument.
It’s important for people to take trends like this in context, though, and not assume that gender inequality in ecology is solved (we still have an issue with retention, pay equity, and promotion, for example). Given the gender imbalances in many departments, it’s going to take a while to reach parity. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be celebrating these results; rather, it’s just one of many pieces in the broader puzzle.
Re: promotion and retention, do you mean promotion and retention of asst profs to the associate stage? The Shaw & Stanton analysis linked to in the post speaks to that. Or do you mean retention at the stages in between undergrad and prof?
“Given the gender imbalances in many departments, it’s going to take a while to reach parity.”
Yes, there’s going to be heterogeneity in gender balance of ecologists among depts. long after N. American academic ecology as a whole reaches gender parity (and probably forever, if only because many depts. only employ one or two ecologists). But unless there’s some correlation between current dept. gender balance and future dept. hiring, that heterogeneity shouldn’t slow the time until overall gender balance of ecology as a whole is achieved. My ballpark calculation (20 years or a bit less) should still apply. But I feel like maybe I’m slightly misinterpreting your remark here? If so, my apologies.
One hope one might have is that improvements in gender balance in one area will have beneficial effects on diversity and equity in other areas. For instance, as gender balance of faculty improves, one would hope that gender imbalances in committee service would as well. It’d be naive to just assume that this will happen automatically of course–people need to make appropriate choices to ensure it happens. But improved gender balance of recently-hired faculty at least creates a context in which it’s hopefully easier to make change happen in other areas.
Data on gender balance of asst/assoc/full profs in France:
Based on recent faculty hiring in ecology and allied fields (57% women over the last 3 years), I think EEOB at Iowa State must be pretty typical. That is, at the asst prof level, gender parity of N. American ecology faculty has almost certainly already been achieved, and may well have been achieved years ago. Not in every dept. of course–there will always be heterogeneity among depts.–but at the aggregate level of N. America as a whole.
I say that because people only spend 5-6 years in the asst prof stage, so it only takes that long for the population of ecology asst. profs to completely turn over. And while I only have ecology faculty hiring data going back 3 years, there’s no reason why TT ecologists hired in the 3 years before I started collecting data would’ve been much less than 50% women. There’s no way gender balance of ecology faculty hiring would change that fast.
First of all, thanks for all the effort you got to in sharing these findings – I always look forward to the series of posts on faculty hires (especially as someone hoping to enter that pool in a few year’s time).
It’s a bit weedy but: I’m curious about the claim that the results aren’t a product of sampling bias and were randomly sampled. How supported is this claim actually? The finite population of hires is unknown and your sample frame within that population matches your actual sample (if I’m interpretting the methods correctly); i.e., you identified as many of the hires from that population as you could. There was no randomization of your sample from some defined sample frame because how could that be done in this case (from a practical standpoint)? In other words, you don’t know what the data for the unsampled portion of the population looks like so the bias there is really unknown, the proportion of female hires may be similar to what you sampled but it could also be higher or lower and because the sample was one of convenience, it’s hard to anticpate if/how that bias may manifest.
I looked at the calculations from the previous post to support the idea that bias would have a minimal effect on the estimate but I’m not sure I agree that they show that. You assumed a maximum potential bias (61%) in the unsampled portion of the population and then quantified how the effect of that particular bias on your estimate would manifest if you were to change the proportion of the population left unsampled. This is useful for some questions but I don’t think it’s useful for quantifying the unknown bias. Really what this shows is how the estimate would change as the proportional sample changes *conditioned* on an assumed bias; it does not test how the estimate would change as the magnitude of the bias changes (irrespective of the proportional sampling “efficiency”). Which is to say, if you had a sample of size n from some population of, lets say 750 and the proportion of female hires was higher or lower than you observed, how might that affect the estimate? Since we don’t know what that bias would be in the unsample proportion it’s circular to assume a certain magnitude of bias and show that it has only a minimal effect on the estimate, therefore there is no bias.
I should caveat all this to say that the practicalities of collecting these data probably preclude doing it any differently (especially in the context of a blog post and not your day job!). That said, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the results are not a product of bias since there is no way to quantify what that bias might be. I think it may be more fair to say that the bias is unknown but there may be some qualitative reasons to believe that it’s not a huge problem (e.g., what is the mechanism by which convenience samplng of university hires would over-represent men or women).
“The finite population of hires is unknown”
True, but we can bound it’s size pretty closely. ecoevojobs.net tries to be and is pretty comprehensive. Every year I find a handful of newly-hired ecologists (less than 10) who filled positions that weren’t listed on ecoevojobs.net. Further, many of the positions for which I can’t determine who if anyone was hired are positions that went unfilled (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/how-often-do-faculty-searches-in-ecology-fail/). A plausible lower bound on how many TT asst. profs of ecology have been hired each year in N. America over the last 3 years is about 200. Given that I ID’d over 190 new hires last year and the year before, the true population size can’t really be <~200. A plausible upper bound is somewhere around 300. That's a bit more than the number of positions listed on ecoevojobs.net that could, based on the job titles, possibly have been filled by ecologists under my fairly broad definition of "ecologist". So I'm sorry, but if you think it's possible that my results could be way off due to sampling error because you think I might've only sampled a small minority of all new hires, I'm sorry, but the burden of proof is on you to point out the many hundreds of newly-hired TT ecologists I missed. Shouldn't be hard, if I really am missing hundreds of people each year! (And as an aside, if you think, say, 1000 people or more are being hired as TT ecologists in N. America each year, then what you're saying is that ecologists are being hired into TT jobs at much faster rate than new PhD holders in ecology and allied fields are graduating from N. American universities. So you're effectively predicting that, within less than a decade, many TT ecology faculty positions will be going unfilled due to lack of PhD-holding ecologists to fill them.)
Further, the positions for which I can't ID who if anyone was hired are a random or near-random sample of all position with respect to attributes that I know affect the likelihood of a woman being hired. In the past, the positions for which I wasn't able to ID who if anyone was hired were a bit skewed towards positions at less research-intensive institutions, which tend to be a bit more likely to hire women than more research-intensive institutions. But this year, that wasn't the case.
So if you think it's possible that, by some strange circumstance, that my results are way off because the modest number of positions I failed to ID (compared to the number I ID'd) were *really* likely to be filled by men, or *really* likely to be filled by women, I'm sorry, but the burden of proof is on you to prove it. There's no reason to think that, and many not to.
It's true that in last year's post I showed how my results would change, conditional on an assumed bias. And as I said in last year's post, I deliberately assumed biases *more extreme than can plausibly be justified*. So while I can't estimate the true sampling bias (if any), I *can* BRACKET it. Specifically, I can bracket it to show that it *must* be too small to matter for any practical purpose. That's not circular reasoning.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I trust this clarifies matters.
Thanks this does clarify a bit.
I think we may be cross-talking a bit re: what my point is. I don’t have evidence to suggest that the sample is biased, I’m just left unconvinced that there is evidence that the sample *isn’t* biased. It’s akin to the absence of evidence not being evidence of absence.
I see your point about trying to bracket the potential bias and I think the approach is reasonable. However, my point about circularity was that the bracketing was accomplished (I believe – please correct me if wrong) using the sample itself. I.e., the proportion of female hires at non-research-intensive institutions came from the data you collected to try to estimate what the proportion of hires might be in the proportion of hires you didn’t observe in order to show that the proportion you did observe wasn’t biased.
I do agree that the unobserved proportion is probably small (I wish that I could believe there would be greater demand for TT faculty than supply – if only that were the problem we faced…). Thinking through this more I can see how if the unobserved proportion is relatively small it would take a very extreme bias to pull the estimate because the dataset is close to a census. I wonder if that could be a more compelling approach to modeling the potential bias in the unobserved population: assume you missed the maximum plausible proportion of hires (~110). Then, what parameter value (i.e., what proportion of female hires) would it take within that unobserved proportion to “meaningfully” change the estimate. The the question becomes a bit more simple: is that modelled parameter value reasonable? For the more qualitative reasons you suggest (e.g., what would the mechanism for an under-reporting bias be?), if that parameter is very extreme the case would be made stronger that it’s likely a non-issue.
In any case, I agree that there is not much of a reason to think there is such extreme bias (but could of course be surprised). Thanks for entertaining such an in-the-weeds discussion about sampling bias which was, of course, not the primary point of the post!
If you don’t like using the observed % women in the sample to decide where to center the “brackets”, then you could just pick wider brackets…
Or, you could ask the question “What would the % women have to be among the positions that weren’t ID’d to change the % women in the entire dataset to X?”, where X is some specified percentage. For instance, if we assume the full population over the last 3 years is 750 people, of whom I ID’d 548, the percentage of women among the non-ID’d positions would need to be 30% in order to reduce the percentage of women in the total population to 50%. Frankly, 30% is not anywhere close to plausible. There’s no way my sample was anywhere near that biased. Going in the other direction, it’s mathematically impossible for the % women in a total population of 750 to be any higher than 69% women, given that I ID’d 314/548 members of that population as women. To get to 69% it would have to be the case that every single position out of 759 that I failed to ID was filled by a woman. Even if, say, “only” 75% of the non-ID’d positions were filled by women, the percentage of women in the total population only rises a few percentage points, from 57 to 62%.
Personally, I prefer my bracketing approach. But if you prefer knowing that it would take a laughably huge sampling bias to push the % women down to 50% or up to 62%, or whatever, that’s fine too.
We get subtweets:
To which I replied:
This is really interesting (and thorough!) Jeremy. One question comes to my mind – what are the patterns for other STEM disciplines (or even other fields of biology)? Are we doing something particular in ecology and evolution that could be replicated?
Good question Risa! I wonder about this too.
Based on the NSF data linked to in the post and analyzed in Shaw and Stanton, it looks to me like ecology is similar to other life science fields in terms of gender balance up through the PhD stage. So whatever ecology is doing right or wrong at those stages, I suspect it’s broadly similar to what other life science fields are doing right or wrong.
Other STEM fields are quite different, esp comp sci, engineering, and physics. IIRC (and I may not) chemistry is more like biology than like physics.
just picking up on the question you raise “What efforts would further improve matters, and what efforts would be misplaced?” — and maybe also on the comment you report from Meghan that “many women faculty are serving on search committees and working hard to make that good news happen”.
As I understand the evidence, unconscious gender bias measures much the same among women as among men. So maybe the most important thing has been to consciously counter that unconscious bias, more so than to strive for equal numbers on every committee.
I share the sense that consciously recognizing unconscious bias, and designing training and procedures for search committees to deal with it, seems to be effective. To the limited extent that one can evaluate that from the data in the post.
That’s why I wrote in last year’s post that I’m mildly skeptical of an alternative approach of combat unconscious bias: conducting the initial stage of the search blind to applicant gender and other personal attributes. It’s just not clear to me that widespread adoption of this practice would systematically improve diversity and equity in N. American ecology faculty hiring, and I worry that it might even do the opposite (or maybe it wouldn’t make much difference one way or the other). There are of course other arguments for blinding based on other considerations, including institution-specific considerations. So I don’t have a fully settled view on this.
I agree with your doubts about blinding the initial stages of searches. This cross-connects (I think) to the interesting results you described earlier showing very wide scatter in the relationship between hiring and publication track record. You’d like to think that selection committees would concentrate on what CVs suggested about long-term potential. If there were signs of real character and persistence, and of original rather than fashion-prone ideas, you’d like to at least talk with that person, irrespective of the volume of publication.
And speaking of character and persistence, let me express warm respects for all the work you’re putting into this, and for the scrupulous care in reporting and interpreting.
Thanks Mark, that’s very kind. Every year I worry how this post will come across and so I try to do my best to write it as well as I can. It’s reassuring and gratifying to get as much positive feedback as I’ve gotten this year (recognizing that not everyone feels positively about this post, of course).
From the “General Discussion” tab on ecoevojobs.net. For folks unfamiliar with it, “x2” is what you add to the end of comments over there if you agree with them and have nothing further to add. It increments to x3 if a third person agrees, etc.
“Since it is so relevant to folks on this board, I hope people have seen the epic tour de force that was today’s blog post about the gender breakdown of recently hired TT N. American asst professors: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/newly-hired-n-american-tenure-track-asst-professors-of-ecology-are-59-women-thats-good-news-but-most-ecologists-still-dont-know-it-or-cant-quite-believe-it-now-please-read-the-whole-post/. Also, take a look at previous posts from this week and last about inside hires, pubs in leading journals, etc. And since I know he reads this, thanks, Jeremy Fox, for tackling this in such a comprehensive, data-driven fashion. x2.”
Very interesting and thorough analysis, Jeremy. I am encouraged by the data you’ve collected on three years of hiring and hope that these patterns will continue. I have one question and a few thoughts on the general pessimism to which you attribute ecologists’ low estimates of the % of female TT hires.
First, a question: you mention having reviewed CVs for many hires. Is it possible to calculate how many of the new TT hires are actually moving from an existing TT position? In recent years, I’ve noted a number of assistant professor positions that appeared to be filled by hires that had already been in faculty positions. My impression is anecdotal, but to the extent female hires were making lateral moves, the overall increase in female faculty could be lower than raw numbers suggest. I’m just curious if it would be possible to address this question with your existing data.
As to the pessimism you perceive in your poll results, I wonder if that could simply be a product of a general pessimism among PhD ecologists toward getting any TT position. Given the sheer numbers, the bulk of your potential audience is likely to be graduate students and postdocs, most of whom have poor odds of landing a TT position. If this is the case, your voters may be reasonably pessimistic about the TT job market as a whole, which could seep into pessimism on specific questions such as the % of new hires that are female etc. This pessimism-effect could emerge even for folks who are not on the job market, because they likely have female students or friends or colleagues who are great scientists but who may never find a fit in a TT position. Lastly, given the long history of hiring patterns that worked against women and other groups, three years of data, though amazing, may not seem like a long enough span to convince everyone that long-term change is guaranteed in this area. But it certainly gives us all hope!
“Is it possible to calculate how many of the new TT hires are actually moving from an existing TT position?”
Yes, 11% in 2017-18: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/how-were-newly-hired-n-american-tt-asst-professors-of-ecology-employed-when-they-were-hired-heres-the-data/
“My impression is anecdotal, but to the extent female hires were making lateral moves, the overall increase in female faculty could be lower than raw numbers suggest.”
The # of TT ecology asst profs making lateral moves is too small to much affect the overall gender balance calculation. And it’s too small to tell if TT women ecology asst profs are more likely to make lateral moves than men. FWIW (not much…), 11/18 lateral moves by N. American TT asst profs of ecology in 2017-18 were made by women. Not appreciably different than the % women among all TT asst prof hires in 2017-18, given the small sample size.
“As to the pessimism you perceive in your poll results, I wonder if that could simply be a product of a general pessimism among PhD ecologists toward getting any TT position. ”
Maybe! Not sure about that. I’m unsure because, according to the poll results and holding all else equal, faculty are about as pessimistic on average about the gender balance of newly-hired TT ecologists as grad students and postdocs are. Though I suppose faculty could still feel pessimism about the overall state of the faculty job market even though they personally obtained faculty positions.
Last year, I also asked poll respondents to provide their gender, and to describe themselves as optimists or pessimists. Neither attribute was associated with respondents’ guesses as to the gender balance of newly-hired TT ecology faculty.
“Lastly, given the long history of hiring patterns that worked against women and other groups, three years of data, though amazing, may not seem like a long enough span to convince everyone that long-term change is guaranteed in this area. But it certainly gives us all hope!”
There’s been a steady, decades-long improvement in gender balance of the US professoriate as a whole. And there’s been a steady, decades-long increase in % women among life science undergraduate and graduate degree recipients. Obviously those trends aren’t guaranteed to continue, but I confess I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t.
More broadly, as far as I’m aware (which is not far! I’m not an expert!) there aren’t *that* many examples of professions outside academia, or fields of study within academia, in which the gender balance trended in one direction for a long time, and then went into reverse and trended in the other direction.* Though there are a few examples. IIRC, the % women majoring in computer science in the US was trending up until the early 1980s, then went into reverse. And there are more examples of professions or fields of study that were initially mostly women, but that became male-dominated over time. Computer programming is one. So one question to ask might be “Why have some professions or fields of study gone from mostly women to mostly men, or trended towards one gender then reverse direction, and does academic ecology fit those historical examples?”
*Apparently (and I can’t recall where I read this; it was in a peer-reviewed labor economics paper but I don’t recall more than that), the most common pattern for US professions that change gender balance over time (and many professions don’t…) is for the profession to go from highly-skewed in one direction to highly-skewed in the opposite direction. That is, it’s extremely rare for a profession that’s moving towards gender equity to stop changing once approximate equity is achieved. But I wonder if academic ecology (and academic life science more broadly) might turn out to be one of the exceptions. I say that because gender balance of undergraduate and graduate degree recipients in life sciences started out very male skewed, changed over time to become slightly skewed towards women–and at least at the undergraduate level has held steady at 58-60% women for over 20 years. It’s early days, but it looks like gender balance of MSc and PhD recipients in US life sciences also has been holding steady at its current levels for several years. So I dunno, maybe in 20 years or so, if we all keep doing what we’re doing (keep taking diversity and equity seriously, everybody!), the US life sciences professoriate is going to stabilize at approximate gender equity or a slight skew towards women. Again, all this is just me musing out loud about something on which I have no expertise. I just find it interesting to think about.
Thanks for compiling these data, Jeremy, and for your nuanced discussion of the results.
With your ‘sawtooth’ finding (declining share of women from PhD-postdoc, and then rising again to AP), I can’t help but be reminded of seeing, as a postdoc in the UC system, the combination of: (i) heavy investment from the upper admin in affirmative action programs for new faculty hiring (e.g., the President’s and Chancellor’s postdoc fellowships); and (ii) stonewalling the postdoc union behind closed doors on pretty basic asks for better childcare resources and parental leave (e.g., we had to threaten to go on strike to get 4 weeks of paid parental leave [4 weeks is nothing!!]). So, while I see encouraging news on the faculty hiring front, I hope your results will serve as a wake-up call to universities to shift some of their attention towards the parts of the pipeline that are still leaky (esp. the postdoc stage). Hillary Young (from UCSB) had a nice Science letter on this a couple years back: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6246/390.2
Second, I think we need to be telling our male advisees to apply to more jobs:
I agree with your hypothesis about what’s driving the pattern: search committees often end up choosing between interview pools of similarly qualified women and men, and improving gender balance of the department is then *rightly* weighed as part of the ‘fit’ question, which results in women being hired more often. In fact, this practice is made explicit in the policies of several Canadian universities (e.g., here is Brock’s policy. see Article 20, which states that departments with less than 40% women have to give priority to female applicants unless a male applicant is ‘substantially apart’ in his qualifications: https://brocku.ca/human-resources/wp-content/uploads/sites/81/BUFA-Collective-Agreement-2017_20.pdf). U.S. universities often can’t have policies like the Brock one for legal reasons (as is the case in California), but are instead increasingly requiring diversity statements in the package as a means of enacting a similar policy.
The above is just to say that I don’t think there’s much of a mystery in what’s going on here, nor do I have an issue with it on the aggregate. (I would, though, be curious to see if there are some universities that are enacting a much stronger preference than the average in order to achieve parity quicker. My hunch is that some universities aren’t doing enough of this, and others are going too far.) Even setting aside historical inequities, gender balance is certainly important from a teaching and advising perspective. So I, too, hope this trend continues.
But, just like I agree with those who say that some women would benefit from hearing this good news more, I also think some men would benefit from hearing about these trends more. If being a man is a significant minus from a fit perspective, then men will on average need to apply for significantly more jobs to find the right fit (maybe ~50% more, if postdoc pools reflect applicant pools). That’s ok (in fact, everyone who really wants a faculty job should be casting a wide net!), but I don’t think men are getting this message enough. A case I’ve seen a handful of times in the past few years is: a man with a superstar CV (e.g., 1K+ citations, largely from first-authored papers, less then 3 years out of their Ph.D.) being told by his mentors: (a) what a superstar he is, and (b) how easy of a ride he will get as a man, who then casts too narrow of a net and doesn’t find a job. The other case I’ve seen is men overestimating how strong of a geographic preference they can get away with (anecdotally, my impression is that schools on the coasts are weighting gender more in hiring, on average, and coastal schools are also often the geographic preferences people have).
Anyway, all this to say: given that most people probably agree on what the causes of these gender-balance data are, and that the causes are justified from both ethical and strategic standpoints, discussing them as openly as possible with trainees of all genders seems like a good idea.
The anecdotes from Dan Bolnick and others earlier in the thread seem to suggest that male faculty job seekers in ecology already cast wider nets than women on average. But it would be interesting to have systemic data on this. A bit of data could be had from past editions of ecoevojobs.net, on which ecology faculty job seekers could anonymously list personal attributes, # of jobs applied for, and other information.
Just offhand, I haven’t noticed any trends in % women among newly hired TT ecology faculty in different regions of N. America (e.g., coastal vs. non-coastal). But I will try to check when I get a chance.
I think your estimate that a man might need to make 50% more applications on average in order to expect to get a TT ecology faculty job offer probably is based on some debatable implicit assumptions.
Thanks, Jeremy. Yes, I agree that it would be good to check my hypotheses against data, and I hope you are able to do that. I admit that I might be wrong.
My ~50% number is also admittedly a rough guess, but I don’t think it’s in an unreasonable ballpark necessarily, and in fact it’s more likely too low than it is too high. If you assume overall applicant pool (not the applicant pool for each job) has the same demographics as postdocs, then it would be 46% women based on your numbers. If there are total M applicants and N total jobs, then there are 0.46M female applicants; 0.59N successful female candidates; 0.54M male candidates; and 0.41N successful male candidates. So the success rate of a woman on the job market is on average 0.59N/0.46M, and for the average man it’s 0.41N/0.54M. So the average woman on the job market has a success rate that’s 0.59*0.54/0.41*0.46 = 1.69 times the success rate of the average man (or 69% higher). If you assume that women postdocs are less likely or equally likely than male postdocs to go on the faculty market, then a 69% advantage is the low-end. If you take Dan’s 35% of applicant pools number as reflecting the high end (because, as you rightly pointed out, men apply to more jobs they are under-qualified for) then you get a high-end advantage of 1 – (0.65*0.59/0.41*0.35) = 167%. So unless you assume that women postdocs are *more* likely than male postdocs to enter the market (which I doubt, in large part because of the barriers still facing female postdocs that I mentioned in my post), the advantage for female applicants overall–not in each search–is between 69% and 167% relative to men. If women also apply more selectively, then the number of jobs an average man would need to apply for to get hired, compared to the average woman, would be higher than 69%.
Another thing I’d love to know from people on search committees is to what extent the male skew in uncompetitive applicants is driven by applicants from South Asia and the Middle East. In my admittedly small sample size of searches (admittedly not for faculty) that I’ve seen applications for, at least 90% of the male skew in overall uncompetitive applicants is driven by that (i.e. almost all of the non-competitive applicants from South Asia and the Middle East were male, and the rest of the non-competitive applicants skewed only slightly male).
Anyway, all these questions can be answered with data, so I’m keen to see what you find.
Yeah, sorry, a calculation along those lines came up in a comment thread on last year’s post. I don’t buy it and neither does Brian, I don’t think it’s a sensible calculation. Thread starts here: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/newly-hired-tenure-track-n-american-asst-professors-of-ecology-are-59-women/#comment-74414 Afraid I don’t have anything further to say about that calculation that didn’t come up in that old thread, so we may have to agree to disagree on this point.
Frankly, I’m not sure it even makes sense to try to estimate how much gender is weighted “on average” by ecology faculty search committees. And even if it did make sense, to make a proper estimate I think you’d need to have lots of detailed information about every applicant to each of a big sample of TT ecology faculty jobs. I don’t think you can learn how, or how “much”, gender and other personal attributes feed into search committee decision-making by just looking at gender balance of new hires and applicant pools. If you want to somehow quantify how search committees make decisions, you need to have the information search committees have.
I meant *more than 69% higher* at the end of paragraph 2, not higher than 69%, sorry.
Thanks for referring me to that older thread, Jeremy; I hadn’t seen that before. Perhaps the disagreement stems from my use of the word ‘advantage’ in relation to the 69-167% range in my previous comment. We may (or may not) have a disagreement on what you’d have to assume or measure to call it an advantage, and whether it’s a reasonable a priori hypothesis to say it is, but this is probably not the forum for that discussion (I’m guessing you would agree; and looking at the thread from last year, it seems like it got a bit ad-hominem and unproductive, so happy to not repeat that). I’ll note that the range I calculated (69-167% higher success rate) is consistent with the Williams and Ceci PNAS experiment and the NRC numbers, so I don’t think it’s too wildly high necessarily; but again, I get why we need to be careful about calling it an ‘advantage’, absent more data.
But, regardless of whether or not those numbers represent an ‘advantage’, they’re still consistent with my earlier claim that men might have to apply for 69% more jobs to be successful. For instance, if, instead of men having a disadvantage related to the gender-balance component of ‘fit’ (which would be–I’ll say again–a state of affairs I support), men simply were less good in a number of of other intangible ways that made them harder to find good fits (which could be true, though such an argument would also remind me a bit of Harvard’s seemingly dubious reasoning in the ongoing anti-Asian discrimination case regarding personality scores), it would still be the case that men would need to apply for at least 69% more jobs on average to be hired. Thus, I don’t see how people giving their male advisees the advice to cast a wider net is bad advice, regardless of why it happened to be the case that they needed to. In fact, it’s probably good advice for advisees of all genders to cast a wider net (as you’ve noted on this blog previously, I think).
I agree with the general advice that all prospective TT faculty job holders, of whatever gender, should apply widely if they’re trying to maximize their chances of obtaining a TT job. And that they should carefully consider whether any “dealbreakers” (e.g., I have to live in city/state/province X; I have to live in a big city; I have to be at a research university; etc.) really are dealbreakers for them.
Always gratifying to have a post read in the spirit it was intended. 🙂
Via Twitter. Again, always gratifying when readers take the post in the spirit it was intended.
Fantastic work Jeremy. I don’t know how you find the time, honestly, but am very very grateful that somehow you do. Perhaps you share sleep habits with Margaret Thatcher (https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22084671) 😉
Our faculty developed a flyer “recruiting for excellence” that attempts to combat unconscious bias affecting the faculty hiring process. There is a link to that flyer on this page:
Catherine Graham recently suggested an additional measure, to independently process male and female applications, and to then merge the top n of each into the shortlist.
At a recent event to highlight these efforts and some signs of success, there was a comment from a student leader that they had not experienced strong evidence of bias, their peers did not see gender inequality as an issue with high relative importance, that some male students felt disadvantaged, and that they do not want anyone to get special treatment. Lots to unpack there, but in general there seems to be a disconnect between the efforts at the faculty level and the feelings and experiences of the (younger) student body. Maybe specific to here in Switzerland / Zurich?
Any, once more, great work and insights Jeremy
All the best
Thanks O, that means a lot to me coming from you.
The feelings that student leader reports certainly aren’t unique to Switzerland/Zurich. I’ve seen all of them expressed on ecoevojobs.net comment threads. How common they are, I don’t know. One of the challenges in writing this work up has been to address the full range of feelings out there.
I would be very curious to see the same data from various European countries. Some countries would provide small sample sizes, of course. But still, I’d be interested to know how the state of play varies internationally. I’m recalling for instance Tim Coulson’s blog post from a few years ago arguing that sexism in British faculty hiring has been so bad for so long that the British should quit trying to fix it and instead go to a 50:50 quota system. But he didn’t cite any data as to the gender balance of recent hires, and so I wonder if, like many respondents to my surveys, he greatly underestimates the proportion of women among new hires. In which case his proposal would be a radical way to fight the last war–at best. If implemented in N. America, of course, his proposal would actually reduce hiring of women in ecology.
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