Philosophy Job Market Mentoring for Women


A program informally piloted last year is officially launching now as the Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy. According to the program’s website,

the Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy matches job candidates with junior faculty mentors who have recently been on the market.  The program provides mentoring and peer support to women candidates during their job search through videoconferencing and online forums.

There’s also an explanation of why the program was created:

Women job candidates face unique pressures and challenges due to sexist attitudes, prejudices, and assumptions that work against them. Although women candidates already receive advice and support from faculty in their departments (though the quality of this support varies widely across programs), this support is typically geared towards job candidates in general, and therefore is often blind to the complexity of the challenges women on the job market face. These challenges include, but are certainly not limited to, the following issues: concerns and questions women face regarding their reproductive choices and sexist assumptions about how those choices will impact future career success; concerns and questions about marital status; concerns about what constitutes appropriate attire and appearance for a “serious” woman candidate, concerns about a woman’s perspective, including concerns about whether she is a “feminist,” and so on. Women also face unique challenges as negotiators for salary and benefits; in fact, studies show that women are disadvantaged in negotiating situations and may need to negotiate differently from men. Finally, women also face the threat of sexual harassment. Since men do not face these same challenges (or do not face them to the same extent) and since it is reasonable for young women to hesitate to approach male faculty about how to navigate them, there is a clear need for access to women mentors who have recently been through the job market process and are in a position to share their strategies and advice, as well as to provide much needed moral support.

If you are interested in the program either as a job candidate or potential mentor, you can learn more about how to get involved here.

(via Jennifer Frey)

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Anon
Anon
6 years ago

This is a very laudable scheme, but consider the feedback from the candidates:

https://jobmentoringforwomen.wordpress.com/support/

For instance: “My school has no support for the job application process – no placement director, and the year I applied, no graduate director either. Initially, I wasn’t sure what jobs to apply for or how best to describe what I do – I felt a lot of uncertainty. I learned a lot through the program, and also gained skills and confidence that I know will help me in the future.”

The mentoring, whilst obviously appreciated, it not clearly gendered. Indeed, looking over the five quotations, only one appears to emphasise this dimension. What the other four emphasise is the need for a helping hand through what is clearly a stressful experience, something that can often only be usefully offered by someone who has recently gone through the process themselves. As a male job market candidate, my position is pretty much akin to the candidate in the quotation. I would give anything for someone to help guide me through this difficult process when I have close to zero institutional support. There is the very real prospect that I will end up jobless through no fault of my own because I have no one to help me through the process. And yet, because of my gender, I am locked out of the very system that could provide such help…Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
6 years ago

Just going to leave this here:

“National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track”

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5360Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
Reply to  the Onion Man
6 years ago
anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

A couple things–Anon, I understand that the job market is super stressful/sucks. But:

“There is the very real prospect that I will end up jobless through no fault of my own because I have no one to help me through the process.” It’s true that there is a real prospect of that–for all of us, male and female–but it’s not *because* you have no one to help you through the process. It’s because there are no jobs, and way too many qualified candidates. Having someone to help you through the process is not some guarantee that you will get a job.

“And yet, because of my gender, I am locked out of the very system that could provide such help…” I’m of the view that, even if it’s the case that women have an advantage on the job market, the gendered focus of this program is not just acceptable, but good. Most men–even most sympathetic allies, which you don’t sound like one of–literally have no concept of the extra challenges that women face in grad school. And they also literally have no concept of how many opportunities women have been “locked out of” because of their gender. Having, like, one mentoring program for women job candidates is not going to come anywhere near to making up for/correcting that.

Just to give you some examples of opportunities I’ve been “locked out of”: I can’t work with the two most well known faculty in the area I work in in my department unless I want to be treated like a piece of meat/groped/objectified/have everyone in the outside world assume I am sleeping with those people,hence I can’t get letters from these people, hence I am very likely to be hurt on the market when people see that I don’t have letters from the two bigshots working in my area in my dept.; two other male faculty who work on things related to what I do regularly take their male students out for drinks, talk philosophy with them, and generally offer them a ton of support, and literally never once have invited me/offered to take me with them (and this is not because I am some unpleasant, unlikeable person or something like that–people like me), and so on. Male students in my program treat me like I am an idiot. And this is not because I am an idiot. They don’t invite me to things, they have secret meetings without me about stuff we are all working on. I am the only woman in my dept. working on the general kind of stuff that I am working on, and I have zero peers I can talk to about it. I’ve had to form a network of people outside of my department who I rely wholly on for philosophical and personal support.

Further, whenever something good happens to me–whenever I get invited to something, or get into something, or am given any opportunity–at least two people tell me that this is merely because I am a woman (or, depending on who is running the thing, because I am an attractive woman). This is not true. I am sure you will now be thinking “oh, well that’s probably because it *is* true that you only got invited to that thing because you are a woman”. But it’s not. It is because people want to talk to me about philosophy. But most white men have no concept of what it is like to constantly have your intelligence called into question, to constantly be told that you aren’t good enough, and that it is just the system rewarding you because of your gender (I suspect this is even worse for people of color in the profession).

I worked my ass off to be where I am and in the position I am in. I’m sure you did too, and I’m sure you’ve faced many challenges. But there are systematic challenges that women in the profession face. I know very few women who haven’t really, really struggled–far more than most of their male counterparts–through grad school, for lack of the same kind of support, for constantly having our intelligence called into question, for receiving far fewer opportunities for networking and so on. And I know a lot of women in the profession.

It’s hard for me to understand, in light of this, how someone could object to people trying to improve the situation for women who have made it most of the way (or all the way) through grad school. It’s hard for me to understand how someone could complain about this. I don’t want to think that it’s about being purely self-interested, but it’s really hard to listen to someone complain about being locked out of a single opportunity when many of us have been fighting for our entire grad careers (and some of us before then) to just have some semblance of equal opportunities to those men receive.

All that being said, I think there are worries about this program. But I really don’t think that you’ve hit on those worries. So I’m not going to say anything about them here. The worries are not “men are being locked out of a single (fairly minimal!) opportunity”. That sounds just like you’re so used to having every opportunity always available to you–if you just work hard enough, or do the right things, and so on–that when there is something that you officially can’t participate in, you freak out. Some of us are systematically locked out of all sorts of opportunities that you take for granted.Report

Anon
Anon
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

I guess the difference is this: You seem to think this program is just one piece in a game of ‘balancing the books’ between the relative advantages / disadvantages of sexes over the course of their graduate careers. I, however naively, thought its founders were committed to a much more laudable principle, namely that no-one should lose out on the job market for not having an understanding the wildly complex nature of the job market.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, especially when the two wrongs are so unconnected: I’m sorry the male students on your program have been such dicks to you. But leaving me at sea on the job market seems a weird way to ‘balance the books’ and make up for their shortcomings. They are going to be no worse off, and I, at my low prestige and ineffectual department, am going to end up paying the cost.

You seem to think that the competition is between me and you, but it isn’t: I don’t have one big-shot, let alone two, nor does my department have anything like the graduate community you suggest. I wish I could take these advantages for granted in the way you suggest I do.Report

Anon Adjunct
Anon Adjunct
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

What made you think he was white? This program excludes men of color as well as white men, right?Report

anonymous
anonymous
Reply to  Anon Adjunct
6 years ago

Because no one who had even the most shallow understanding of how oppression works would write a comment like that.Report

Anonym
Anonym
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

lolReport

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
6 years ago

Protevi

I call your Brownstein and re-raise you Williams and Ceci:

http://chronicle.com/article/Passions-Supplant-Reason-in/232989Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
Reply to  the Onion Man
6 years ago

Ah, so you admit that your “I’m just going to leave this right here” drive-by dump of a link to the W&C piece was insufficient? Good; I’m glad you acknowledge an ongoing discussion.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  John Protevi
6 years ago

Er, what? I thought we were having a friendly poker-themed back and forth.

Obviously there is an ongoing discussion. Part of that discussion is recognizing the fact that sexism in 2015 is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from sexism in 1955.Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
Reply to  the Onion Man
6 years ago

“I’m just going to leave this here” is not really an acknowledgement of an ongoing discussion, is it? More like an attempt at a show-stopper; a presumptive mic drop, wouldn’t you say? If you wanted to acknowledge an ongoing discussion wouldn’t you have said “Here’s Williams and Ceci; of course this hasn’t gone unchallenged, as in, e.g. Brownstein, and Williams and Smith, to which Williams and Ceci respond here …”?Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  John Protevi
6 years ago

No, I wouldn’t say it was a “mic drop” at all, presumptive or otherwise. I think it’s an important piece of context for this discussion. Assuming both the data and their interpretation to be correct, the mere existence of a 2:1 bias in favor of hiring women in STEM programs does not in and of itself disprove the existence of sexism in the academy generally or academic philosophy in particular. It does, however, indicate that if you are concerned about sexism in the academy, perhaps the job search process is not the best place to spend time and effort.Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
Reply to  John Protevi
6 years ago

“Assuming both the data and their interpretation to be correct,” — well, isn’t that exactly what is in question? I don’t deny that WC should be read. I do deny they should be read in isolation from their critics, and responsible commenting would seem to require alerting readers to their critics, not simply performing a drive-by linkdump.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  John Protevi
6 years ago

John: isn’t it too high a bar to ask that anyone who provides a link to a piece of research automatically has to link to criticisms of that research; indeed, didn’t your own first post fail to clear that bar by not referencing Williams and Ceci’s reply? I generally assume anyone involved in these discussions knows that *no* piece of social science is uncontroversial nor should be looked at in isolation.Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
Reply to  John Protevi
6 years ago

David, as I say above, I took “just going to leave this here” as not simply providing a link but as implying that the content at said link was a show-stopper, conversation-ender, etc. Maybe that’s being hyper-sensitive, but that’s how I read that locution in many of its appearances on the web, here included.

I think you’re missing the specificity of my claim. I’m not promulgating a principle to be used in all web discussions. I’m making a judgment about what constitutes responsible commenting in the use of the WC study in the context of this thread about women on the philosophy job market.Report

langdon
langdon
6 years ago

Some women got together to help other women on the job market deal with the stresses that come from being a woman on the job market. That there are unique challenges that arise from being a woman on the job market is undeniable even if the statistics about hiring that are thrown about so often are correct. I see absolutely nothing wrong with women going out of their way to spend their own (uncompensated) time to share their experiences with those who will gain the most from it.

Must we have this same interminable discussion every time anything that has to do with women in philosophy comes up.Report

MrMister
MrMister
Reply to  langdon
6 years ago

The program’s statement on why it was founded emphasizes equipping women to deal with issues that they, as women, will face in hiring. If it turned out that, in practice, the program was mostly giving generic advising of the sort that a school’s placement director would give out indiscriminately (for a school which had such a director and where that director was doing a good job, neither of which is a given), then I would think that is at the very least interesting. For instance, it might suggest that they could tap male mentors for at least some spots, because, although they might not be the best people to ask about what to wear to an interview, they could nonetheless be perfectly competent to give out the generic sort of advising that is quite popular. Or not: this may be a bad idea for other reasons–and, indeed, the fact that what the mentees mentioned in their comments was mostly pitched gender-neutral doesn’t indicate that the advising relation didn’t have a gendered cast to it, or that, say, it wasn’t easier to get those gender-neutral goods, like support and companionship, because shared gender fostered a sense of community. But in any case, I think the disconnect Anon points out, if it is indeed genuine, tells us something interesting about the program, and the job market as a whole, that goes beyond the same interminable discussion that happens every time anything that has to do with women in philosophy comes up.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

Since many people who enter into these discussions seem blissfully unaware, I wanted to highlight the fact that philosophers have been actively debating the ethics of affirmative action programs for at least 30 years now.

The “Oh, this is reverse discrimination!” move is just, well, embarrassing. If there must be endless discourse on this issue, could people please try to meet the basic expectations we have of our first year non-majors taking intro to practical ethics courses?Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

Who said anything about “reverse discrimination”?

In a carefully-delineated context within a particular, circumscribed corner of the academy, two researchers found that there is a systemic bias in favor of hiring women. Their results may not be above reproach, and may even be incorrect. But those results certainly constitute an important data point for any discussion about the place of women within the academic job market, wouldn’t you agree?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

Do you feel the same way about people who show approval of affirmative action without noting the 30 years or so of debate on the issue? Rejecting dissent on this point on the grounds of 30 years of debate seems to be begging the question.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
6 years ago

I am in favor of affirmative action in order to get more women into philosophy.

I see nothing wrong with coaching women to deal with ways they might get discriminated against for being a woman.

I see something very wrong with not being concerned about unfairness to young males going out on the job market. Fogey males with tenure like me don’t pay any price to get more women into philosophy. We can have that warm glow without sacrifice if we want. The price is paid by young men who through no fault of their own stand to lose out on a career they’ve spent their lives preparing for. The ultimate insult is to not acknowledge what we are doing to them, or even to lecture them on how privileged they are.Report

Anonymous assistant prof
Anonymous assistant prof
6 years ago

Two thoughts: I’m part of several minority groups: I’m a woman, not white, come from a working-class family, have a mild visual disability (prosopagnosia and problems orienting myself, so it’s not immediately obvious, but I’ve been in many embarrassing social situations because of this). I went to a non-PGR ranked department, for the simple reason that I was clueless about the role of prestige (nobody in my family had a university degree, let alone a PhD). Someone like me, save for my gender, would be still at a big disadvantage in the job market of today. So, I agree it sucks there is no form of mentoring for men who may due to circumstances beyond their control (class, disability etc) have less access to the mentoring that some men receive.
Thought 2: The job market is very bad, and so it’s useful to reflect on what mentoring etc accomplishes. It does not increase the paltry number of jobs. However, it does level the playing field, and so I believe that mentoring is valuable in that respect (I believe academia should be more of a meritocracy than it is today – women now have better prospects than they had before. As a woman, I know how much the situation has improved in just a few years. As a grad student, people would often openly doubt my credentials because of my gender. Or they would openly sneer I got it easy because I am a woman (there was even a job I did not get – as an inside candidate – where people told me that I would find a job anyway, being a woman. That department had not hired a woman in years, and several men were hired). Still, now I rarely hear such disparaging comments and I got a tenure-track job. I get plenty of invitations for volumes and talks, and need to sometimes decline invitations for plenary talks – including prestigious ones – that I couldn’t have dreamt of just a few years ago. So the situation is much improved for women. But the situation is still dismal for people of lower social class, with disabilities, etc. I do believe it is valuable to have mentoring programs to target such groups, next to the ones for women.Report

anonymous
anonymous
Reply to  Anonymous assistant prof
6 years ago

I’m the anonymous who posted the long rant above and just wanted to say I largely agree with this post, and many of the worries raised in it are the worries I have about the mentoring program–I think at this point our resources would perhaps best be used trying to help out people of color and working-class people on the job market, given the improving situation for white women, and, at the least, that we need to be doing both. The only reason I didn’t mention this was that I was trying to respond to the comment above mine.Report

langdon
langdon
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

Feel free to start such programs anonymous.Report

Shelley Tremain
Shelley Tremain
6 years ago

I would like to encourage Anonymous assistant professor and other disabled philosophers to contact me about doing an interview for a future installment of Dialogues on Disability, the series of interviews that I am conducting with disabled philosophers and post to the Discrimination and Disadvantage blog on the third Wednesday of each month. The interviews that I have done so far have received very appreciative responses from other philosophers and have covered a wide range of issues, including the inaccessibility of the profession and other forms of discrimination, disability and love, disability and feminist philosophy, disability and black masculinity, disability and the limits of current work done in cognitive science, and many other provocative issues. I believe that over the long haul the series will have a significant impact on the discipline and profession. Anyone who is interested in doing an interview with me for the series should email me at [email protected]. The notices for previous interviews and the previous interviews themselves can be read here: http://philosophycommons.typepad.com/disability_and_disadvanta/dialogues-on-disability/

Best regards,
Shelley TremainReport

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

I would imagine that most of us feel compassion for all philosophers who have difficulties finding jobs in this awful job market. The suggestion that the creators or defenders of programs like this just don’t give a shit about white male philosophers and their suffering is, at best, disingenuous.

Some writing on this issue seem to think that if white men are disadvantaged in the current market, then this disadvantage is the fault of programs like this (or maybe “feminists” more generally). I wish these philosophers would step back and take a wider point of view: if there is some “disadvantage” attached to being a white male on the job market today, then you should be blaming the white men who actively excluded women, minorities, and poor from philosophy for years and years. This program and other, race-focused affirmative action programs are simply trying rectify an unjust situation that was caused by white men. Moreover, you might want to think about whether your perception of disadvantage is actually disadvantage; perhaps it is actually an experience of having an unfair advantage removed. Simply pointing to the latest hiring statistics will not settle this issue.

Are things changing for women and minorities in philosophy? Sure. Do we still have a ways to go? I don’t see how anyone could deny this. There are still plenty of conferences, edited volumes, and whole academic departments that are all male and all white.

Hopefully, we will see a day when these programs aren’t necessary anymore, but the very anger directed at these programs suggests to me that they will be needed for many more years.Report

JT
JT
6 years ago

I’m a grad student and a man, but neither white nor particularly economically privileged (my family’s situation is middle class but my parents are immigrants with no post-secondary background, so while I enjoyed some of the privileges of class, I’ve often found myself just as bewildered by university and academic life as many of my working class friends and I’ve missed out on lots of support and opportunities, especially in my undergraduate days, as a result). I’d really like it if people would stop invoking the situation of people like me in defense of silly objections to worthwhile efforts like this. It makes me sad that it needs to be said, especially among philosophers, but it is false that we must either help all in need or none at all. The existence of this mentoring program does not preclude the creation of another designed to help those like me. In fact, it may serve as a helpful model for mentoring programs targeted at other disadvantaged groups, and I’d be very grateful if such a resource becomes available when I hit the job market. This is so blindingly obvious that I can’t help but wonder about the sincerity of those who object to efforts like this seemingly on my behalf.Report

JMM
JMM
6 years ago

Every. Single. Time. It’s comments threads like this that make me want to leave the profession despite having a tenure-track job in a great city. This is an entirely voluntary (uncompensated) effort by women for women. If I had been asked to volunteer my time to help candidates on the job market who had the sort of attitudes evidenced by some of these comments, I would NOT do it. And I take it that many of the women generously donating their time to this initiative would decline as well. I’m sorry that you feel left out by a voluntary group of people getting together to help each other in a way that systematically excludes you, welcome to philosophy.Report

MrMister
MrMister
Reply to  JMM
6 years ago

Anonymous @8:44am above documents male professors in her program (voluntarily and without compensation) bestowing social and academic attention on male graduate students and male graduate students in her program (voluntarily and without compensation) forming social and academic networks with other male graduate students. Despite these forms of networking being voluntary and uncompensated, they are pernicious by virtue of excluding women like her, and forcing them to work harder and search farther to form useful professional relationships. As such, being voluntary and uncompensated is not a sufficient condition for being morally innocuous–and this is something that, presumably, everyone agrees on, given that everyone agrees that traditional forms of old boy patronage are all at once voluntary, uncompensated, and pernicious.

I raise this point not because I share the assessment of commenters like Anonymous @11:09 below, but instead because if I were to share it the consideration you raise would not move me at all. In other words, it seems to me simply not to connect.

Two further thoughts:

1) “Every. Single. Time” (and other iterations of the same elsewhere in the comments)–dailynous, and the culture more broadly, have rotating cast. Every year there are going to be new graduates, new professors, new everything entering the stream, and for them these debates may be new. If you think that in having such debates they are merely retreading the past, then either a- make an effort to share those lessons and save them from reinventing the wheel, or b- gracefully opt out and let the kidderinos discover for themselves what they think. And don’t be too shocked if they disagree with you about what was ‘already settled;’ surely we can think of some political or philosophical debates that our parents’ generation thought they had already figured out, but which, in our estimation, they did not. Certainly, no one owes it to anyone to let what they said last time this came up be the final word on the topic, especially given that many people here now may not have been there at all last time this came up.

2) The suggestion that a tempest in a blog-sized teapot makes you so fed up you would consider abandoning your tenure-track job in a great city is pretty #firstworldproblems. It certainly put me in the mood to start fetching the torches and pitchforks.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

“I’m sorry that you feel left out by a voluntary group of people getting together to help each other in a way that systematically excludes you, welcome to philosophy.”

I guess some of us just have different aspirations for philosophy.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

JMM, we know for a fact that female candidates are already getting double the chances on the job market that men are getting. And here we have yet another initiative promoting the marketability of women over men. Is it a voluntary project by and for women? You bet. But that doesn’t change the basic issue that many have raised.

How would you feel if there were a special program dedicated to helping rich people on the job market, run entirely by rich volunteers? Students with less than $50K in their bank accounts don’t get to apply. It’s only to help the marginalized rich people who are always made to feel uncomfortable by having to read philosophy produced by those who don’t belong to the wealthy elite, and to be offended by Singer, Unger, Pogge and others being shoved down their throats. Never mind the objective job placement statistics, because it’s fun by volunteers.

If such a program existed, would you support it? Would you object to it? What if there were a comments thread in which some people objected, but the program went ahead anyway like a hundred other programs aimed at helping rich people only, and then a rich grad student said that the mere existence of a thread in which people objected to the latest program was sufficient to make him want to leave the profession? Would you trip over yourself trying to get him to stay? Or say good riddance?

Maybe the reason why there are complaints every single time is that the complaints are reasonable, or at least worth hearing, but are systematically dismissed without serious consideration by people like you.Report

Enzo Rossi
6 years ago

This is crude, but some of the talking past each other that one sees on these threads could be due to people ignoring the distinction between specific kinds of oppression (gender, race, class, etc.), and all-things-considered disadvantage.Report