The “Job Market” and the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy

Inspired by Brian Weatherson’s post on the problems with posting discussions relevant to the discipline on Facebook only, I would like to post my recent Facebook status update here. I hope that it will spark yet another important discussion regarding the status (or lack there of) of women and other minorities in the profession.

One thing that I haven’t seen discussed lately is the job market and its potential connection to the lack of minorities, such as women, in philosophy. I mentioned yesterday that I thought about leaving philosophy during my last year of graduate school and when I was on the job market. What I didn’t mention was my reasons for thinking about leaving. The main reasons stemmed from being on the job market. Cornell was an idyllic place for me (I had extremely supportive advisors), but it was possibly too idyllic. It didn’t prepare me for just how mean and inappropriate people were often going to be while I was on the job market. Most of what I experienced was very similar to what most other women in the philosophy experience on the job market – e.g., being dragged around by drunk older men from table to table at the E. APA, being in one-on-one situations where inappropriate questions were asked and too personal things mentioned. In contrast, I didn’t experience anything of the sort when I interviewed outside of philosophy. I had only two such experiences, but they were totally different from philosophy interviews. People were less antagonistic and certainly more appropriate outside of philosophy. I was fairly shocked by the difference. Lately there has been a lot of talk about the problems within the profession and taking action aimed at positive change. I think the job market and best practices are something that should be revisited now (Meena Krishnamurthy, Facebook, September 27, 4:14 pm).

With this I ask, what should be done about the current state of the “job market” in philosophy?

[Note: The use of the words “job market” is meant to highlight the meat  market quality of searching for a job in philosophy.]


6 responses

  1. Pingback: The Job market and women in philosophy | Feminist Philosophers

  2. One thing, that has come up in other contexts: the more departments separate their searches from the E.APA, the less certain kinds of misfortunes are likely to happen. If a department really needs to have E.APA interviews, maybe they should make a point of NOT having a table at the smoker, so that interviewees feel no pressure to drop by and hang out. If a department wishes to have a table at the smoker for their own grad students to hang out at, then maybe the table can be listed as follows: “University of X graduate students”. This would indicate that the table is not there for X’s faculty to conduct semi-formal semi-drunk post-interview interviews.

    • Thanks, Phil. I think this is a really good idea. Add to this list something else that has been mentioned numerous times: no more interviews in hotel rooms.

  3. Increasingly, departments are interviewing candidates from outside the US. First, let me take a minute to call attention to the diversity of such candidates: they may be graduate students at non-US universities, postdoctoral candidates in either visiting teaching positions or short-term research fellowships inside or outside the US, or faculty currently at non-US universities, as well as faculty already at US universities. Second, please note that some of these candidates, such as those who just moved to the US in the past few months, may be dealing with financial issues affecting their capacity to pay for accommodation and travel, and/or to send in their job market materials (for example, limited available funds, no credit card as yet, a credit card with a very low available limit, or a credit card that the conference hotel won’t accept).

    It would be really nice to see committees affirming receptivity to non-US candidates by recognizing certain needs (for example, willingness to permit Skype or phone first-round interviews if the candidate cannot afford to travel to APA Eastern). Please continue the good work of enabling wholly electronic applications at low-to-no cost. It would also be helpful to develop lower-cost alternatives for attending APA Eastern for interviews, if they remain necessary.

  4. Hi Meena: I’ve been wondering whether to post this non-anonymously, but I felt uncomfortable about that, so hopefully, it’s OK to post anonymously. In 2012, I went for my only E-APA first-round interview to Atlanta. I am a postdoc in the UK, so I had to fly far, and since they only notified me 10 days on beforehand it was very expensive (flight, hotel etc), but it was a dream job so I wanted to have the interview.
    A complicating factor was that I was three months pregnant and felt quite nauseated during my first trimester. I asked if I could interview via Skype, but they made it clear it was E-APA or nothing because of the personal contact. Here’s the dilemma: I didn’t want to tell them I was pregnant, because I feared it might count against me. But at the same time, doing a transcontinental flight and interviewing the day after my arrival (for lack of funding I could not afford to arrive much beforehand) with the morning sickness and tiredness wouldn’t make my performance so great. So I decided to risk it: prepare meticulously, buy interview clothes that concealed my growing uterus, and fly in. It was all to no avail – thousands of dollars wasted. The combination of sleep deprivation, morning sickness and jet lag made me screw up the interview.
    I’m telling this to say that the people who really wanted to see me on the E-APA because they value personal contact didn’t get to see the real me. Not allowing skype places disadvantages on people who come from outside the US (expenses + jet lag) and it also discriminates against people for whom travel at short notice is difficult.

    • Preferred Anonymous – Anonymity is fine when it is warranted. Thank you for sharing this. I agree with you and Rebecca. There is a need for alternatives to the E-APA, if not out right abandonment of E-APA interviews as Phil suggests (I am more inclined to prefer this option). I also had a negative experience at the E-APA. I only went once and like Preferred Anonymous, I had an interview for my dream job that I was very excited about. I had my 6 month old daughter, whom I was still breastfeed at the time, with me (my husband came along to help). I scheduled the interview early in the morning, since that was the best time for me and my breastfeeding schedule. Things did not go as I planned. In fact, my daughter cut her first tooth the night before my big interview and woke up every two hours and, on top of this, in the morning, my breakfast didn’t arrive. So, I arrived at the interview over tired and under fed. I didn’t get a fly out. I have often wonder how much these circumstances played into that fact. They may not have impacted my performance at all or they may have impacted it a lot. In any case, I don’t think I performed terribly, but I certainly wasn’t the best version of me that day. This sort story may give us more reason for ruling out E-APA interviews. But, I think, this also raises questions about how to structure interviews so that they can accommodate breastfeeding mothers. My problems wouldn’t be eliminated by eliminating the E-APA interviews. They would have (and did to some extent) crop up during fly outs. I am not sure what would have helped.

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