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SLAC tenured professor & chair

post-Skype interview notes:

I take these to be polite and wish everyone in society would do things like this more generally. That said, they make no difference to me in terms of you getting the job or not.

Number Three

I usually send a thank you note to the search chair to thank them "on behalf of" the entire search committee. Is that cool, or should I send personal emails to everyone who interviewed me?


Number three sending a note to each search committee member seems a bit over the top to me, but I'd be interested to hear from others. What do you think Marcus?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I just wrote up a reply to your question, but then it occurred to me that since I'm currently on a search committee for a non-TT position, it might not be a good idea to say anything. It's rather unclear to me what is appropriate to say or not say publicly while one is in the process of a search... :/


Oh okay. I will have to live in suspense!

With a job

I think people are missing a major issue here. At some USA colleges HR departments have taken control of the hiring process - or been given control. And faculty are not permitted to communicate information about the searches. Colleges are afraid of litigation. So they are putting protections in place. This is one downside of American culture. In the last search I was involved in, even after the search was over, the chair of search committee would not give any applicant information about the search (out of fear). I was not going to override her decision.


The bureaucracy is even worse in Europe. But anyhow, maybe fear is the reason. But then I guess things must vary a lot by institution, because there is a fair number of colleges that do update candidates and treat them with respect, so it can be done at least at some places. Also, I am suspicious that a tenured professor would have much to fear by sending a polite email.


It looks like a non-trivial number of schools are going straight to flyouts this year, skipping first round interviews. There are many possible explanations (target of opportunity hires, people not updating the wiki earlier, only the most elite schools are doing it, etc.), but I'm wondering if the explanation is that some departments are abandoning first round interviews because they're skeptical of their efficacy. If so, I hope that's an emerging trend. Skype interviews are in some ways an improvement over APA interviews, but they're still a bad practice. Marcus has done a nice job in the past of summarizing the social science on interview effects here. I'll just add that I've had multiple Skype interviews marred by technical problems despite taking all precautions to avoid them. And coming across well over Skype introduces even more skills irrelevant to whether you'd be good at the actual job. The first round interview can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

There's a discussion about this already on the metaforum, but it's going the way things often go there.


Going straight to flyouts might be the right choice. But one downside is it leaves less room to assess how you are doing as a candidate. For instance, if you had 8 first round interviews, this would suggest you are doing something right to appeal to search committees. It would provide information that the way you changed your cover letter (or whatever) worked.


Amanda, you're right about that. I've heard people say they would have given up had they not at least been getting first round interviews in years before finally landing a job. But there are other ways departments might provide news value to candidates (asking for additional materials, notifying them they made the short/longlist, etc.).

First round interviews also send confusing signals. If I get 10 skype interviews and one flyout, does that mean I botched the other 9, or that I just barely made the first round list at a lot of places? Sure, you can ask how you did, but that's awkward, and you'll never get the full story. And of course there are many other sources of evidence that you are on the right track, professionally. I think the news value of getting first round interviews for candidates does not outweigh the costs of introducing further irrationality into the interview process, let alone the cost of everyone having to go through these ordeals.

I wish our discipline would take a closer look at the mechanics of our hiring practices. They're little more than cruel wastes of time for everyone involved.


I disagree. Think about how normal businesses operate. You send in your resume. You get a call if they're interested. Otherwise, nothing. Sure there are exceptions, but the exceptions are just that -- exceptions.

Academics live and are groomed in a pampered world. They expect to be treated like they are in on the process just because they've submitted an application letter. They expect updates, reports, feel-good rejection letters. Come on.

The world is not your playground.


When is a reasonable time to stop expecting interviews for applications due in the (late) fall? I’d rather not rely wholly on the wiki.


Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think you can stop expecting interviews now.

Source: I've had about a dozen interviews in the past three years for applications that were due in the Fall. Only one of the interview invitations came after New Year's (first half of January), and this was for a place that went straight to on-campus interviews.


Peter: I was notified of 4 first round TT interviews last year after 1/9. One of those applications was due after the first of the year, though. Some schools will probably always be delayed until after their semester starts before extending invitations.

On the other hand, at least in my areas, there are not many jobs left this cycle that have not scheduled interviews yet.

Some unsolicited advice: you will be happier if you set expectations low to begin with. Forget about jobs the second after you submit your application.


I had 5 interviews after today's date a year ago. And each year seems to be getting later, so my guess is there is still more interviews to come.


Like James and Amanda suggest, I think the job market is elongating; last year at this time, I had not yet had 4 of the 5 interviews I ultimately had. This year, I had more interviews early on, but I was just notified of another one (a job with a mid-November deadline) this week. So I don't think it's done yet!


So suppose you have an interview and someone says "tell me about yourself." What, on earth, are you supposed to say in response to this question?

SLAC tenured professor & chair

"So suppose you have an interview and someone says "tell me about yourself." What, on earth, are you supposed to say in response to this question? "

You'd surprised how many people are incredibly boring when answering this. If I ask something like that, I just aim to see if the candidate is passionate about life/anything. In short, I would recommend being honest and being passionate about what you enjoy to do.

I've had people say "oh, I don't do much you know". As if I'd like to spend the rest of my career with them as a colleague. I don't care if you like football or fidget spinners, as long as you like something and are passionate about it.

Marcus Arvan

SLAC tenured Professor & chair: I appreciate you sharing what you look for in an answer to that question. However, on whether questions like these should be asked at all, see my comments and empirical literature on questions like this.

While one might think a candidate's answer to a question like that may be predictive of how they will actually be as a colleague, the science is clear: it simply isn’t predictive. The person someone appears to be answering questions like these is often poorly reflective of who they really are on a day-to-day basis. For example, I can be awkward and withdrawn with people I don’t know well, and am not particularly fond of talking about myself (blog posts notwithstanding!). I’m just shy and find it difficult to “act natural” and “be myself” in contrived situations with strangers. Nevertheless, I’m passionate about a great many things—music, politics, physics, etc.—and have been complimented on how clearly my passions come across in my daily professional life by students and colleagues. Conversely, there are people who “talk a good game” in interviews and cocktail parties who nevertheless aren’t very good people you’d actually want to be a colleague with (and who, for all you know, may be vastly overstating their passions simply to impress in an interview!).

Worse still, evaluators’ ratings of answers to questions like these are known to be more predictive of evaluators’ personal and demographic biases than they are predictive of anything having to do with candidates. The science here is unequivocal: questions like these are a problematic hiring practice. I’m going to post a podcast by my spouse (who specializes on the science here) in the next day or two.


So, I've just learned, yet another time, that I was not a finalist for a job. I'm having a hard time converting first rounds into fly-outs, and yet I've been told many times, first or second hand, explicitly or tacitly, that I interview just fine. I had one campus interview two years ago, zero last year, and so far only one coming this year. I'm starting to think this might as well be a fluke given how few of them I've had. This might be my only chance, and so I should give it all; at the same time it's hard not to despair in the face of repeated failure. How does one not let failure erode one's confidence?


Hi Nick
I do not know you, but here are my two cents: do not give up if you still want a job in philosophy.
There are many reasons first rounds do not convert to on campus interviews, and even when you make it on campus, you may only have a 1 in 3 chance.
I had two on campuses in one year where there was an inside candidate, and another the year before. You usually do not know til you get there. And even if there is one, there is always the chance that the insider will leave for a better job elsewhere.


Thanks Brad. Not giving up. Still, it's pretty depressing that some candidates manage to convert a majority of their first round interviews and I convert so few, while having no clue why. I'm a white male but I don't like to think that's a significant factor, so I'm just left guessing.


It might be nothing you do wrong, but just that you weren't at the top of the list to begin with. I think a fair amount of Skype interviews have favorites, and so if you are 1 of 12 or 1 of 16 the odds of getting an on campus interview are not high. I think the exception is getting a lot of them, and those who do probably have some prestige which explains why they are at the top of many lists. Anyway I have a friend who on three years on the market got only 1 interview, and applied to 225 jobs. He ended up getting the job for the one interview and is doing very well. So make the most of your fly out.


To be clear 1 total interview, not just one fly out....

Marcus Arvan

Amanda: quite right - it only takes one!

Marcus Arvan

Nick: would you mind me running a post on your initial query on how to not let stuff like this erode your confidence, along with some of the helpful replies you received? It’s an issue I struggled with a lot, and which i suspect a good number of other candidates do as well. Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to highlight and discuss more in a new thread.


Marcus, of course not, thanks!


Amanda, thanks. I know it only takes one and hope this one will be the one. In a way having a decent number of first rounds is good, so I shouldn't complain, but this makes it all the more frustrating when this ends there. Anyway, maybe the new thread will make it seem all so normal.


Nick, how many first-round interviews are you getting? If it's 5, and you're converting 1, that's not so bad. If it's 10, that's odd. If it's 15, there's definitely something wrong with how you're presenting yourself and you should try to get to the bottom of it.

Also, sorry to say, but the fact that you're a white man is a huge disadvantage for you. You all have been disadvantaged for a while now, but last year things seemed really acute and this year seems to be going the same way. There are many jobs where your application will not be taken seriously, and sometimes you will be interviewed despite having virtually no chance of moving on. I can't say too much because I am junior.


Does anyone have any advice about whether coauthored research should be presented as a job talk? I've got a paper that will work excellently for the audience and is the right balance of generalist interest and showing off my AOS. But are the odds too high that a committee may look at the talk unfavorably because it is coauthored?

(My coauthor is fine with it. I'm just worried about its reception by the committee.)


We've talked about this before. Maybe Marcus can provide a link? I think the consensus is this is a bad idea. Some faculty are judgmental, and will look down on it. Sadly...

Marcus Arvan

Amanda: I can't find where we talked about it. I've tracked down a few discussions of whether it's a good idea to use one's writing-sample as a job-talk--but I haven't been able to find anything on co-authored pieces.

For what it is worth, I have the same general sense as you--that it's probably a big risk, given that people might wonder how much of it was the presenter's work.

But this is just my sense. We could run a discussion thread on it if you like, D. Just let me know!


We discussed using co-authored work as a writing sample. Using it for a job talk strikes me as different on several counts. For one thing you'll be presenting, hence whether you master the material is easier to demonstrate (or harder to fake). Second, it's feasible to flag your talk is based on co-authored work and weave it into a slightly broader presentation of your own research. Third, co-authored work is evidence of collaborative research, something that is increasingly valued by many departments and schools. Social scientists rarely present single-authored work. Since we're increasingly expected to work across disciplines, I don't know what that shouldn't mean opening ourselves to some of their standards.

I'm saying all of this also because I'm hoping to use a co-authored paper for a potential job talk that fits a particular job description really well. I also have anecdotal evidence of a co-author who based all of his job talks on a co-authored piece last year, flagged it at the onset and was apparently not the worse for it.

Marcus Arvan

Nick: I hope you're right! As you say, co-authored papers are totally standard in many other fields.


As with most things on the job market, it surely varies by committee. Given what I know about some professors being so anti co-authored papers, personally I would be worried that one of those folks would be on the search committee. But I would love to be wrong. I think it would be nothing but a benefit to philosophy if we started, respecting, encouraging, and taking seriously co-authored work as a matter of normalcy rather than the exception.


JuniorFaculty -

It's too early to take stock; I'm still waiting to hear from a few places. But, counting only TT jobs (or equivalent), here's where I stand:

2016-17 (incl. a late spring 2016 app): 5 interviews / 1 fly-out

[plus 1 non-TT interview and 2 postdoc interviews, one of which worked out]

2017-28: 5 interviews with places I've heard from / 1 fly-out / 2 places I have yet to hear from

[plus 1 non-TT I have yet to hear from]

So, it's not so bad, but it's not so great either. Fingers crossed for the one fly-out.

As for being a white male, I suspect that's a factor. At least I know women were hired for most of the jobs I interviewed for in 2016-17. And given how every single interview has included questions about diversity so far, I believe my odds are not improving.


So I had four (TT) flyouts last year. I got one. White males were hired at two others. I don't know about the third. Maybe white males have less of a chance getting hired, percentage wise, then others, but as a note of encouragement many of them get hired every year.


And they get hired over women, like me.


Amanda, you got four flyouts, which is a lot. The point is, I suspect (but really that's a defeasible suspicion) that women are, other things being equal, more likely than men to be finalists. From what I gather here and there finalist pools very often have one male at most. Of course he might get hired over women, nobody denies that. So, I am somewhat encouraged by the fact that it happens, but I really have to wish that may female co-finalists don't do great for it to happen.

And I'm setting completely aside whether it's fair or not. I'm actually not quite sure what I think about it. Honestly, if it's really ceteris paribus, I'm fine being at a disadvantage against women.


I was once advised (and pretty sure I might have seen it written on this thread as well) that it's good to present work in progress for a job talk because this demonstrates that you've got more material in the works. If you do so, then it might also be a good idea to make sure that its a WIP for which you have a very decent draft already written up! Some hiring institutions have asked candidates to circulate the paper that they are presenting. Does anyone know how common this is?


Why would it be relevant that a woman is hired over a man, unless the presumption is the woman was not hired on merit but because she was a woman? Everyone keeps pointing out that this or that woman was hired over them. Why point this out? It seems plausible the reason one is pointing that out is to say there is a good chance she didn't deserve the job, but was hired for affirmative action reasons. This is not exactly a supportive thing to keep hearing over and over, and it seems a humble and decent response (when one doesn't know why one wasn't hired) to assume the other person was at least equally worthy.

For what it's worth, it drives me equally nuts over at some feminist oriented blogs when women claim that there was clearly some sort of discrimination against them and that is why they didn't get hired. I think women say this far too often when there is no evidence of it in their particular case, or at least very defeasible evidence. None of this is to say that both men and women are not hired unfairly, or that the "odds" of women getting hired is higher. I just think it is not in good form to imply that the reasons one is not succeeding is due to race or gender unless one has very good reason to think so, in their particular case.

I am fine with people trying to fight for or against affirmative action as they see fit. But to just go around and mention that there is a good chance that the reason one was not hired is because someone else was hired without merit (i.e. without being the best candidate) is unfair to that person. If one has an explanation of why one would mention the odds of women being hired is higher, or that a woman was hired instead of them, for a reason other than to point out it wasn't a merit based hiring, please let me know. The last time we talked about this someone said something like, "Well I looked at her CV and I was a better candidate in every way..." Right, as if (1) one can objectively tell who the better candidate is by looking at their CV, and (2) the person knows just what that search committee was looking for and, (3) the person who didn't get hired is an objective judge of the situation. If it was any other circumstance it is the worst type of manners to to point out that your "competitor" "beat you" even thought he/she was not better. Sportsmanship at it's worse.

Let me be clear this is not directed at you Nick, but at the broader discussions.

As for you, 5 first rounds and 1 flyout is about right, as someone said. I had 4 flyouts and I think like 15 interviews or something, so you are right on par for the course it seems.

Lastly, as I've said, I am NOT in favor of hiring women for any sort of affirmative action reason. And yes I have seen it happen and I wish it didn't. I am not in favor because I think it is unfair. And second because I have to go through my entire career with everyone reminding me that "Well the odds were really in your favor...." I also hate the way people will insult a woman by implying she wasn't hired because of merit (even though the person has no way of knowing) and then as if to make themselves look better says, "But it's fair because I'm in favor of preferential hiring'. Nothing could be more patronizing. Well I know these women are not the best for the job, but because I am a good person I want her to get the job anyway, and then I will point out that she didn't really deserve it and the odds of deserving men getting jobs are low...."


Hi Humanati,

Of my four flyouts last year, and 5 tt flyouts over all, I was asked once to circulate the paper. And indeed it took me by surprise and I think it ended up hurting me, maybe even costing me the job; the quality of my draft was not great. I am good at presenting unfinished work and it was fine in my other job talks. I am probably not rare in this? But anyway I got some pretty critical comments of my draft which I think were fair, but I had no idea I would have to send one and they didn't tell me until the last minute.


Amanda, I think you misunderstand. No one is - at least I am no - claiming that women are not hired on merit. The situation is fairly simple to understand. There are way too many qualified applicants. More often than not, hiring committees would be fine hiring all finalists, if not most of the shortlisted. OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL — as I emphasized — among two equally qualified candidates one of which is a woman, she has better odds of getting the job. Simple as that. It is based on merit, since we're assuming her rivals were equally good, but she's hired on affirmative action grounds. We know there's immense pressure from HR, admins and faculty themselves to do this.

Being aware of this is not saying anything against you or your merits, or those of any woman for that matter.


Thanks everyone for your thoughts on coauthored job talks. I guess (like a lot of the market) it really comes down to a gamble. If I can find a non-collaborative talk that equally suits a generalist audience, that may be the way to go. If not, I'll have to weigh what is worse: potentially alienating my audience, or potentially making them think I'm not capable of producing high-quality research independently.

Marcus - if you think a thread is something that could generally help Philosophers Cocoon and its audience, I'm sure it would be helpful. But for my purposes, I probably just need to consider the benefits and possible downfalls of each my possible job talks in light of the above dilemma.


Hi Amanda. Thanks for the response. Fortunately, I had chosen a piece of work for which I had a polished written draft! But I also came *very close* to choosing work with a less polished written draft that had slightly more exciting ideas. Good thing I went for the safe option. I didn't expect to be asked for the paper to circulate.


Nick as I said my response was not directed at you but the broader discussion. The quote I gave above of another discussant should give you an idea of what that broader discussion is like. And if you are assuming that women who are hired on affirmative action grounds are equally qualified, it would be helpful to make that clear when you talk about these things.

Humanati I'm glad it worked out for you. And I'm glad you brought it up so others can be aware of the issue. I'm not sure how I feel about the "fairness" of this asking for a draft practice. It is sort of asking like a second writing sample, which search committees are free to do of course. But when they ask for a second writing sample it is clear what they are asking for. Since it is not the norm to be asked for a draft prior to a job talk, it seems a bit...inconsiderate to ask unless this is done far in advance.


Just as an example, I have never heard someone say this: "3 women were hired on the flyouts I went on, while I am sure all of these women are just as qualified as me, it is still frustrating that...." Or perhaps, "Even thought women have a higher chance of getting hired, I have no doubt that most of the women who are hired are equally qualified when compared to male competitors..." Or, "As a white male you may have a hard time. This is not because less qualified women are hired instead of men, but simply because in a competitive market diversity needs can be put forth in matters of ties..." No I have never heard anything like this. Rather usually the talk is about how women have less publications, etc.


I did a little analysis of recent hiring practices in the Leiter Top 20 departments. (I lost interest after that.) Perhaps these data will be interesting to people; perhaps not.

[1] There are 57 tenure-track Assistant Professors in these departments. 46% are female and 54% are male.

[2] The female TT APs have published, on average, 3.2 peer-reviewed papers (median 3.0). The male TT APs have published, on average, 5.0 peer-reviewed papers (median 5.0). (I counted 1 book = 4 papers)

[3] A more interesting measure, I think, is the "density" of publication: the number of peer-reviewed papers divided by the years out from the PhD. The average density for female TT APs is 0.9 (median 0.7). The average density for male TT APs is 1.1 (median 0.9).

[4] For me, the most striking feature of the data was the large number of elite TT APs who have produced no or almost no research. This would be not so surprising if it were limited to just-hired ABDs. But it includes many people who had prestigious, multi-year post-docs, or who have been APs for several years already, or both. There is one top department--I won't say which one--which has several APs, many of whom have been there for years, and none of whom seems capable of producing quality research.

[5] On the other hand, in culling through the data, I came across some truly impressive young philosophers (e.g. Alex Worsnip, UNC). But there are not too many of these; perhaps 20% of the CVs I looked at struck me as very impressive.

[6] One interesting question is how to weigh co-authored pubs (I counted single-authored pubs and co-authored pubs identically in the above analysis). Many of the APs with top publications (e.g. Mind, PPR) co-authored them with very senior philosophers (sometimes their advisors). How should these count? When I think about it now, I am inclined to say not much at all.


Amanda, I don't know how specifying "other things being equal" didn't make it clear that I was makin gender-based comparisons other things being equal... But let's set that aside. I have heard people say the things you say you've never heard. That's actually the claim that's most often made—simply that women are being advantaged over equally qualified male candidates. And that's not just happening at the campus visit stage. As I said, finalist pools rarely (though sometimes) include more than one male. It's hard to think this is purely merit-based. So it's not like instead of tossing a coin between the top two candidates they'll pick the woman. The odds are increased earlier on.

But again, it's worth repeating that this may not be unfair and that this may be justified.


PS, Amanda: you seem to have been quite successful, and it's implausible that this should not be based on your merits. I don't mean to take anything away from you.


Well we had a very long discussion thread and not a single person said this. You can go look in the archives if you like. And I read an even longer thread on daily nous and again no one said this. I am glad that you think what you do, and that at wherever you do your reading people think this way too.


I am also am glad you think my success is due to my merits. But again, I have been told, by people I very much respect, that it is because I am a woman. Well, perhaps no that directly but they have said things to me like, "Amanda, let's be honest, as a woman you have an advantage in every way." And also, "Don't you think your interviews are explained by the fact you are a woman..." When someone says my interviews are explained by the fact I am a woman, perhaps I am sensitive, but it seems to suggest that they are not explained by the fact I merit them.


DataB, thanks for making my point. And yes, it is surprising that many people at top research schools have not published much. At least surprising given the perspective many people would have you believe.


Amanda, here's what I think is going on.

Many people are being hired, especially by top departments, because they are female. Full stop. Most of these people work on something related to gender, race, or sexuality. Most of these people have thin or non-existent research records. I do not want to name names here, but you can browse the websites of Leiter Top 20 departments. There are plenty of examples.

Then there is everyone else. If you're not part of the "elite" group described above, gender matters but it is not decisive. You have an advantage, Amanda, because you are a woman--but it's just an advantage, and there are many forms of advantage. Nevertheless, you are not entitled to say that your success is purely "due to [your] merits". Your success is, in part--perhaps in small part--due to your gender as well. You cannot have things both ways. A man who comes from NYU is has an advantage because of his pedigree. And so on.

A big problem is that the outrage leveled against the "elite" group I described at the outset gets wrongly "exported" to people like you. I don't know you, but assuming you have some good pubs, I don't think it's such a big deal if you get a bit of advantage because you are a woman. Like I said, there's plenty of unjust advantage to go around. But the hiring at top departments, which I described at the outset of this post, is really crazy. It's bad for men, for women like you, and for the profession at large.

Straight White Guy in a TT Job at a Research University

1) I have yet to see any data that is well-worked-up enough to conclude anything remotely like, "Many people are being hired, especially by top departments, because they are female. Full stop." I'd love to see how those data account for the many, many confounds.

2) And, while DataB seems to be working with reasonable data (though is one fifth of a publication a year that big a deal, tbh?), the anecdata that is admitted in this discussion by many others is something else. "From what I gather here and there finalist pools very often have one male at most"? Come on... I don't think I have ever been in near proximity to a job search where this was the case. Is it ever the case? Sure. "Very often"? I doubt we've got the data to back that up...

2) Even supposing that being female is widely advantageous on the job market, it is surely one of many, many factors that are widely advantageous. Good at schmoozing? Huge advantage, for getting that famous advisor, for getting your name in at conferences to help work up papers for publication, and for getting yourself interviews and then the offer. Work on certain hot areas of ethics? (NB - Race, gender, sexuality are hot topics, but they are far from the only ones. Can we get some more effective altruism papers please? How about another half dozen philosophy of law hires?) Huge advantage. You particularly good at being a bro? That's a great way to get a huge network! That the internet guys fetishize gender (when they're not busy getting dailynous threads to over 100 comments, that is) is both exhausting and revealing.


I never said anything even remotely close to that I was hired purely because of merit. I think anybody who is hired in this market today owes some of it to luck. And I don't know what you are getting at when you say I can't "have it both ways."

As for publications, it is not only women who lack good publications at top place is it? Your problem dataB, is you seem to have accepted the false dogma that publications is the most important measure of merit. Even at research schools it is not. As I have mentioned, from what I have noticed those getting hired at research schools tend not to have the "best" publication records, but those that seem to stand out in a special way, as in they are a player in their field or they contribute something unique. Your data means little unless we accept that the best measure of merit is some traditional ranking of elite publications.

This is not to say there isn't prestige and female bias in hiring. As I have said all along I think there is both. And I have said all along I strongly disapprove of both. What I don't think is that from the macro economic truth that there are these biases, that any one person can know in any individual case that these biases explain why any person was or was not hired. As white guy above says there are too many confounding factors. And that has always been my issue: people thinking they know in their case that bias explains why they don't have a job, or why a particular other person does.

Nick, here is a great example of what I am getting at:"I don't think it's such a big deal if you get a bit of advantage because you are a woman. Like I said, there's plenty of unjust advantage to go around." See DataB thinks I have an unjust advantage, but as a decent guy, he doesn't think that is "such a big deal". Thanks, data, I appreciate you approving of my unjust advantage.

Round two

Hey Amanda,

I don't want to be a part of the whole "women in philosophy have an advantage" discussion that's been going on here - no good can come of it. But there is something else you've said on this blog a couple times that has rubbed me the wrong way. It's this idea that good candidates aren't necessarily the ones who publish the most, but rather those who are "special" or "unique" in some way. I think you're right that being "special" in this way is probably what explains why a lot of people get jobs, but I don't think that this tracks real merit, as you've been arguing. It's also not the sort of thing that makes for good advice for people struggling on the market. It strikes me that such vague ideas as "specialness" or "fit" are precisely where non-merit-based factors are most likely to slip into the process. Say what you will about counting up the number of publications a person has, or how well-ranked the journals are, but those are concrete, verifiable contributions to philosophy that reflect real work and real approval from peers in the field. It's not unreasonable to think of that as a good measure of merit. But when a job applicant gets invited to an interview or offered a job for some other reason - that they're viewed as "player" in the field or that they're considered "special", and this isn't reflected in their actual contributions to philosophy, that smells awful fishy to me. As far as the advice that "publications aren't all that matter, you need to be special" goes, I really don't know what a person is supposed to do with that. It's vague and misleading: being "special" is often not something that's under your control, any more than "fit" is. Let's call this what it is: a crapshoot. If a person is searching for fairness or meritocracy, the philosophy job market is a bad place to look for it.


Round Two: I wasn't defending the "special" thing. I was just describing what I noticed. I don't know what you are supposed to do with it either. If someone hires someone with less publications, it could be because they *think* their research is special in a way other persons research is not special, or they are seen as a player in the field. Whether this is fair or not (and I am not taking a stance on that, as I have mixed feelings and I don't want to take the time to go into it), I do think it is what happens. My point is that simply because someone has less publications does not mean the search committee did not try to make a merit hire. You could argue their conception of merit is fishy, which is fair enough. But I've talked to plenty of research professors and they have strong opinions on what is good philosophy, and these opinions do not always track publications. Again, this is a descriptive claim. I am not defending them. I don't know how wide spread it is. But from both conversations and looking at hiring records I think it happens. (FWIW I have a lot of publications, a few in top places, most in good speciality journals. )


By the way, because I am a strategic person, I think a lot of times I sound like I am making normative claims when I am making descriptive ones. The truth is, we do not having a hiring system that calculates publications and comes up with a merit score. I might support this system, but we don't have it. So I guess it just puzzles me when so many people focus only on publications when trying to get a job, when the evidence suggests this is not the best strategy. You can argue that it should be, but it isn't...so I don't know where one will go with "should be" either. As for what is "special". As has been said many times here before, the key is to stand out from the rest. One might do this via what you work on, or something else, but the key is to stand out. And since there are thousands of ways to stand out, yes, that advice is very non-specific which might frustrate people looking for concrete advice. Alas, I try to work with the world the way it is rather than how it should be. My advice would be that once one gets a solid publication record under their belt, each extra publication is of diminishing marginal utility, and it might be better to try something else, anything else. (I do think it is worthwhile getting that solid publicstion list first).


Straight White Guy writes:

"the anecdata that is admitted in this discussion by many others is something else. "From what I gather here and there finalist pools very often have one male at most"? Come on... I don't think I have ever been in near proximity to a job search where this was the case. Is it ever the case? Sure. "Very often"? I doubt we've got the data to back that up..."

Okay, but this is not the only "anecdata" we have. Just in my personal experience, on two occasions I've been told by people on a hiring committee that I had no chance because the job just would be going to a woman (and I'm not one, at least not in the old-fashioned sense). They then publicly denied this, of course. And many times--maybe 6 or 7 times--I've seen departments hire women who were, by any objective standard, absurdly less "qualified" than the average person on the market, and when I knew there were far better qualified men who'd been ignored. No degree, no publications, no experience, no "pedigree", etc. (It does still puzzle me though: surely there must have been some _women_ who were far better qualified, and "fit" just as well. But maybe what happens is that the better women get scooped up by fancier schools leaving the rest with some slim pickings when it comes to meeting their diversity-equity "goals" or "visions".) And many people have observed or experienced similar things.

True, this just a series of anecdotes and so perhaps counts for little. (Though, interestingly, equally "anecdotal" evidence is regularly taken to count for quite a bit when determining whether women are being treated unfairly, or whether there is a "chilly climate", etc.) But then, given various plausible assumptions, we would be unlikely to have "the data to back that up" even if it existed or could be generated. We know that all these institutions are under intense pressure to hire women; almost all have explicit policies to that effect. We also know that, of course, it would be unwise for them to publicly admit that sex _alone_ was a significant factor in hiring decisions, even though it's highly improbable that it wouldn't be given the obvious pressures and the policies, and so on.

So the absence of appropriate "data" is probably not a good reason to dismiss an otherwise plausible hypothesis supported by (a lot of) anecdotes plus a sprinkling of common sense.

Even aside from anecdotes, we can just consider the broader social-political situation. In a world where the "under-representation" of women is taken to be a very serious problem urgently in need of constant moralizing discussion and policy-making, how likely is it that there wouldn't be some kind of tendency to hire women (in part) because they are women? In fact most institutions will just explicitly say that they're making all these efforts to hire women, in particular, which just does mean, given some facts about the world, that they're trying not to hire men. Of course they're not going to tell us in much detail how exactly they meet these goals of theirs--because often the details would make them look bad. But it's silly to pretend that we have no rational basis for thinking that they're actually doing the only thing that _could_ be done in order to achieve the goals they're always telling us about. There just are a lot of very qualified, competitive, impressive men on the market; if your goal is to not hire too many of those, and hire more women, you just do have to systematically prefer female candidates. What else could they possibly be doing? Finding male-female pairs who really are "equally qualified" and equally appealing in every other respect and then only at that point opting for the woman? Come on. This scenario of overall equality or even anything close to it is astronomically unlikely (and quite apart from whether the people being compared are both men, man and woman...) The guff about "equally qualified" is just window dressing and ass covering...


Thanks again for proving my point Serf. And making it even more explicit. See Nick, most people in this camp think equally qualified is BS, and the women are less qualified. Or at least most people in this camp who post. Not only are women hired because they are women, but the best women are hired at top places, and so people who are not at top places must really be the bottom of the barrel. I am so tired of responding to the same arguments. People will believe what they want it seems, even philosophers. As far as for class when it comes to being a good sport, it seems many philosophers aren't the type to care about this kind of virtue. "And many times--maybe 6 or 7 times--I've seen departments hire women who were, by any objective standard, absurdly less "qualified" than the average person on the market, and when I knew there were far better qualified men who'd been ignored." Amazing. So examples men give that support their position count and are convincing, and when I give counter examples I'm told that they counter examples are irrelevant. No wonder why hardly any women openly post.


I could point to 20 men at top departments that don't seem to be as qualified as others on the market. But these are not pointed out as examples. It is the women that are pointed out as examples. Interesting. And the fact that white men have been hired over me is irrelevant, or if not irrelevant, must really speak poorly to my ability since I couldn't even get a job in spite of the advantage. As for the women on the market at my department who still haven't gotten a job, I bet people like Serf are surprised they managed to get their PhD.


After reading these posts, how would any woman who lacks a job feel about writing about her struggles? She would have to have a whole lot of courage and self-worth, knowing what so many readers would think of a woman like that. There is post after post about how she has an advantage, and that women who do get hired are less qualified, and that all over the place women are hired because they are women in spite of competing against less qualified men. I really wish there wasn't affirmative action, so women didn't have to deal with this. And I wish more women agreed with me.

TT lady

I know I'm the beneficiary of a female "bias" on the job market. Of course it would be nicer to believe that I'm just better than all other candidates, or at least, not worse, but I have a hard time believing that's the case. I see my brilliant male friends work hard and flounder on the market. Most are lucky to get one interview. I am not more talented or hard-working than they are. My first time on the market, I had nine first-round interviews. NINE. Five flyouts, several job offers. I was hired into an all-male department. ALL of the first round interviewees were women. Would I have gotten the job I have if I were a man? Erm, no.

Does it sting a little to be reminded that were I not a woman, I would not be so successful? Yes. You know what would sting worse? Not having a job. Men have it pretty bad in this market. It's salt in the wound to demand that they pretend it's not happening, to spare our feelings.


Amanda, I think you're missing my point altogether. I agree that there are many (many many) men who get hired despite being less qualified or "good" than other applicants (let alone others "on the market"). That's because there are many ways in which merit (if we can call it that) gets ignored in favor of other things. Nepotism, classism and snobbery, "pedigree"... All kinds of things.

However, it would be absurd to suppose that being female is not _one_ of those non-merit factors, when all institutions are under massive pressure to hire more women (and tell us they're doing that, and enact policies to that effect, etc)

There are, of course, some cases where A and B might be "relatively equal" under some very broad metric. When you take into account just how fine grained and finicky and idiosyncratic any one search committee is, however, then add the systemic pressure to hire women, the likelihood that A and B really are "equal" or that "equal" is not going to be defined in a way that tends to favor the woman, is very low.

What do you make of my own two experiences: being told before anyone even saw my application that the job would go to a woman? Do you think that is likely in the absence of powerful systemic forces? Or do you just think those forces are probably at work only in those two departments?


Also, to be clear, I don't think I've said anything that implies you are less able or accomplished than lots of men. For all I know you are much better at all this than I am, anyway; it seems that way. I am saying merely that, epistemically, it would be weird to think there is no trend toward hiring women even when they're plainly less qualified. That could be true even though many women are talented, deserve their positions as much as anyone could, and even though many suffer other kinds of arbitrary or unjust discrimination. Some may even be treated unfairly because they're women in some respects, though that would be atypical and usually not a "systemic" matter if I'm right.


TT Lady,
Thanks for saying all that. I appreciate your objectivity and humility, and your empathy for the many floundering men like me. Naturally I agree with this:

"Does it sting a little to be reminded that were I not a woman, I would not be so successful? Yes. You know what would sting worse? Not having a job. Men have it pretty bad in this market. It's salt in the wound to demand that they pretend it's not happening, to spare our feelings."

And there's more salt too. Not only are the men told it's not happening but, quite often, it's implied that a man who complains about it (or just notes the fact) is for that reason a loser and woman-hater. Because these policies are supposedly good for women and girls. And for me _that_ last part seems especially stupid and nasty. Three little girls and one woman depend on me. When I'm told I can't even be considered for a job simply because I'm a man, it's not just me (the 'privileged' one) who then suffers. My wife and kids are thereby deprived of the security and happiness they would most likely have by now, were it not for these supposedly pro-female policies. And, often enough, they're deprived so that some childless and (relatively) carefree 20-something can have really nice dental benefits and vacations in Cuba. Or whatever such people do with all that money. The whole thing seems to depend on some very narrow and blinkered understanding of the common good. Atomized individualism. Females are important insofar as they are "individuals" (and grown ups) and, it seems, insofar as "equity" for them as individuals tends to undermine the well-being of families and communities. But, yeah, lots and lots of salt.


As I have said all along, I have never denied there is female bias. I don't know how many times I have to say I agree with that. And that I've seen it.But here is one more time. But Serf you claimed you knew in PARTICULAR cases that a woman was hired because she was a woman. You were not just making claims about a trend. I doubt people know in particular cases.

As for interviews, it doesn't matter how many interviews a woman gets, what matters is the job she got (or didn't). And whether in that particular job she was hired because she was a woman. If so, she benefited from female bias. If not, she didn't. So I don't think every woman benefits, because I don't see interviews in themselves as a benefit. She only benefits if she got the job. And if departments are giving token interviews to women, I would say that is a detriment. It gets a woman's hopes up and takes up her time for no good reason, so that is not a benefit.

TT lady I don't know who you are, but your experience was nothing like mine so I don't know what to make of that.I was never part of any flyout that was all women, and men were hired instead of me 9 times when you count postdocs and TT hires. I was hired by a department that is 50% women. So I guess I have a different perspective. And honestly, I don't have "brilliant" male friends not getting hired. I have friends as good as me or slightly better, but I don't consider myself brilliant.


Also it is a terrible mischaracterization of everything I have said to say that I demand men should pretend that female bias isn't happening. On almost every thread I have written I have made it clear that I believe it happens. I am hardly demanding that people deny that it doesn't. In every case this is what I have a problem with, and what I don't understand people find it so hard to understand: I deny that people can know in particular cases that someone was hired (or not hired) because of gender. Trends are find to talk about. When you talk about particular cases and particular people. (1) Your epistemic ground is shaky, and (2) You hurt particular people. And yes, I think decency calls for not trying to hurt particular people when we can help it. But it especially calls for that when the accusations made are not supported by good evidence. There is good evidence for trends. There is not good evidence for particulars.


Serf, do you really think the fact that you have kids means you have more of a claim to a TT job? We really need to revamp hiring if that is true. And it won't have anything to do with publications.


Serf, this is why I keep writing. The over statements and things that are not true. Really, that you cannot be considered for a job because you are a man? How can one even have a conversation with statements like that. That is just like the feminists who say they are not considered for a job because they are a woman. Bot are equally false.

And in case I need to say it again. I am against affirmative action, I always have been. I think it happens and I disapprove. But to say men cannot even be considered for a job is just silly.


Serf sorry I guess you were referencing times you were told by search committee members you have no chance. Well, I'm sorry that happened and I disapprove of it. Pretty irresponsible of search committee members to tell you that. Were you a finalist?

TT lady

Amanda, I am sorry. I certainly did not mean to imply that we know in particular cases, or that we should speculate in particular cases. I do know, however, that men had very little chance of getting my job. I've also been told to my face that I got a fellowship *because* I'm a woman. Didn't feel good. But the fellowship allowed me to finish my dissertation while caring for 3 young kids: that felt good. Obviously our experiences are different, but given the statistics, mine doesn't appear to be an outlier.
I agree that there's no reason to tear a particular person down. The job market is super shitty. There is a bias on the market, and some (sure, not all) women benefit from it. Not all men are harmed by it, but some absolutely are. What does it feel like to be that guy, who sees lots of people getting jobs, some of which he feels he would be a better fit for, if not for his maleness? Is he required to think that those people deserve that job, but not him? So, yes, it can be super irritating when people point at a particular person and say "She didn't deserve it". They shouldn't say that. Nevertheless, of all the things that are irritating and terrible about the current job situation in philosophy, this ranks pretty low on the list.


Hi Amanda,
I'm not sure whether having kids means I have a stronger claim (morally, or something) to a job. The idea doesn't seem crazy to me. Affirmative action began (historically, and epistemically) from the idea that hiring decisions should be based to some extent on broad social aims--such as, for example, fairness for women, opportunities and 'role models', and so on. I'd say that *if* these kinds of things are legitimate factors in hiring and promotion and the like, then *certainly* support for children and families is an important social good that might well be taken into account.

Actually I have no principled objection to something like affirmative action (unlike you, maybe). I just think it's been implemented for the wrong reasons and dishonestly. But if there was some general honest trend toward hiring people with kids for secure positions, that would make sense to me. Who most needs security and benefits? Who's most likely to commit for the long-term to the institution? How does it benefit society in the long run to systematically disenfranchise dads? There are lots of reasons why this would make sense. I'd have no real objection either if they wanted to give some preference to the poor, or to people who've suffered unusual hardship, so long as these people were still highly competitive in terms of "merit". I can't see any reason in principle why moral or social values shouldn't be factored into such decisions.

Anyway the main point was that it seems absurd and callous to worry endlessly about the plight of some 20-something new PhD with no big responsibilities, then give them the nice comfy well-paying jobs, while expecting people with families to do all the shitty work for less pay. If the welfare of females is so important, why is it okay to penalize female children or female adults who depend on men financially just so that other female adults can have nice jobs?

I disagree that it was irresponsible for the committee members to tell me these things. It didn't harm me, or anyone else, and at least I knew that not getting an interview was not (necessarily) just because I was judged to be no good at the job.

No, I wasn't a finalist. I was told in both cases that I wouldn't even be _considered_ prior to any applications having been received. Of course the situation might not be quite so egregious in some other places. Who knows.

What is truly irresponsible, and much worse than that, is that the people in charge don't clearly tell _everyone_ how their process works. It's very harmful and insulting to the hundreds of male applicants to lead them on, letting them think they have some real chance of being hired--or a real chance at being interviewed, even--when in reality all of their efforts are entirely futile. If they just said "No men need apply" or "No white people need apply" that would save many people a lot of work and stress and dashed hopes. In some government recruiting systems back in the 90s they used to do that.


"But Serf you claimed you knew in PARTICULAR cases that a woman was hired because she was a woman."

Yes, I claim to know that it happened in at least two particular cases, on very strong evidence. I was told it would happen by multiple people on the search committee. Also I knew in one case that the school had a simple numerical system for "equity" such that, once the percentage of female faculty was below number n, it was virtually impossible for them to hire a man without violating their own explicit rules. In other cases I have more than enough information about the institution's policies, the people on the committees, and the kinds of applications received, in order to conclude with very high confidence that, yes, various specific women were hired (partly) because they are women.

I'd agree that I don't have very strong evidence wrt _all_ particular cases. But I have good enough evidence wrt many, and enough evidence about those together with general trends to be _highly suspicious_ in cases where the woman hired just seems to be _very_ uncompetitive in comparison to any merely average job seeker these days. E.g., no degree or publications, or even just a degree and one or two so-so publications. There are just way too many super-impressive people on the market.


One of the things that keeps shocking me over and over is the number of interviews Amanda and TT Lady announce having. NINE first round interviews? Jesus. I've had fewer than that in three years on the market. (And yes pubs player blah blah...)

I've had zero this year so far. None. Not a single first-round interview.

The response I expect is 'Well, Tim (no, not my real name), you really need to reexamine your materials then, or publish more or..' Here's the thing: I hired Kelsky to help with my materials. And I did some of the job-mentoring stuff offered elsewhere. And I (literally) have published almost twice the amount that is required for tenure at the institution where I currently have a temporary position. And no, not all of them are epicycle pubs. And there are several areas where I'm one of the `go to' people to ask.

Yet I've had zero first-round interviews. My application is not being taken seriously, it seems. I would love to explain this (this fact, the general one) by anything other than my being a white male. But it's hard to come up with anything nearly as plausible. And, lest the inference be missed "I won't be hired (at all) because I'm a while male" does in fact entail "I won't be hired for this or that particular job because I'm a white male."

Not Tim either

You should have someone review your file, including your letters, which you cannot see. I have done this once for someone who wrote into Cocoon - with Marcus mediating. Perhaps Marcus would facilitate it, or do it himself, or you can get someone else to do it. There might be a letter that should not be there, or there might be something in your materials - your cover letter - that is messing things up.

Guess my Gender

Surf: Notice how as soon as you suggest an affirmative action measure that benefits YOU all of a sudden affirmative action is not problematic in any way. If you had your way, what would you be saying to women who are upset becasue they could not find a job because of a lack of children or because they have spouse with a good paying job? I think the point of this thread is to bear in mind this kind of role reversal.

I do need to point out though that it is illegal in the US for a job committee to even ASK job candidates about their marital status or children, let alone make hiring decisions based off of that.

The US is not a place that is friendly to families. I would be the first to admit that. However, the reason it is not friendly to parents does not have to do with the hiring practices at philosophy departments. It is unfriendly to parents because affordable childcare, healthcare, education and the rest of it is not an option.

Remember everyone that there is more to life than a philosophy job, being highly educated means there are lots of other good paying jobs one could enjoy that has security and can support a family.


Guess My Gender (though I won't):

You're mischaracterizing my view. I didn't say that I'm simply in favor of some kind of AA (which would benefit me). Rather, I said that the idea doesn't seem crazy to me; that I have no principled objection to that general kind of policy; and that preferences for parents (and other people) would make sense to me. Iow, I would find the reasons far more convincing. However I'm still not sure whether, in the end, such policies would be a good idea. Maybe I should have been more clear about that.

You seem to be suggesting that, to the extent that I would or might agree with some form of AA for parents (and others), that is _because_ it would benefit me. Well, I don't know how you could know that. It''s also possible that my attitude is based on good reasons, some which I've already suggested. For example, I believe that support for kids and families is a far more important and fundamental social good than the career prospects of individuals--especially when those individuals are doing something that typically has a low social value to begin with (in my opinion).

It's possibly worth adding that what I'm imagining would also benefit people other than me, and possibly at my expense. I'm not poor and I never have been, and I've never faced any particularly great obstacles in life (unless sex-based discrimination counts). If I was being turned away in favor of someone who was the first in his family to finish high school, who grew up in the ghetto and paid for his education by working at McDonald's, or whatnot... well, that really wouldn't bother me morally or philosophically, though of course I'd be bummed not to get the job (and I'd be angry if the powers-that-be were dishonest about such things)...

You ask what I'd say to "women who are upset because they could not find a job because of a lack of children or because they have a spouse with a good paying job". Well, I'd say that their feelings are understandable, and that such a policy is intrinsically unfair; but I'd also argue that the well being of families and the larger society is much more important than their career prospects. And I'm pretty sure that this argument is much more compelling wrt family-based AA than wrt sex-based AA: it's just true that society as a whole has a greater interest in supporting existing families and children rather than providing high-end careers with perks and benefits for single 20-somethings or 30-somethings. We could debate that, if you like, but my point is that (as far as I can tell) there is a principled difference between this kind of response to those who lose under the kind of AA I'm imagining as compared with a similar response to the people who lose under actual AA.

Your point about the illegality in the US of asking about marital status seems irrelevant. Many of our laws are bad. So maybe these ones are bad and should be changed.

This is a thought-provoking claim:

"The US is not a place that is friendly to families. I would be the first to admit that. However, the reason it is not friendly to parents does not have to do with the hiring practices at philosophy departments. It is unfriendly to parents because affordable childcare, healthcare, education and the rest of it is not an option."

I agree with you in some respects. But here's a further line of thought that might deepen the explanation: One reason why we need "affordable childcare" and many other things is that society has decided to treat the careers of individual-women-qua-individuals as very important and intrinsically good things. In reality the vast majority of women are going to find their greatest satisfactions in life as mothers, and these "careers", which for most of them are actually just soul-destroying servitude to some impersonal entity, make it impossible for them to have the kinds of lives they really want.

What we now call "affordable childcare" is really a pretty sad thing, when you think about it. What would be ideal would be for parents, especially mothers, to be able to _care for their own children_ at least for the first few years of the child's life. If only parents could "afford" childcare by having a father with a decent job and benefits, and a mother who could do what most women desperately want to do once they actually have babies and toddlers: STAY HOME and care for their kids, love them and teach them and watch them grow.

But we've made that impossible, in part by flooding the market with female competitors who drive down wages for men and exclude them from jobs--even prior to the crushing effects of AA on men.

The main reason why the US is not 'family-friendly' (I think) is that rapacious global capitalism is not. The US is not family-friendly for the same reason that it's not friendly toward anything decent, human or normal. As Marx predicted, all culture and tradition and beauty must eventually be destroyed by capitalism; so now we're apparently at the phase where families are to be destroyed, and beyond that even the basic human understanding of sex and sexuality... and beyond that, who knows what will come next; but clearly the end game is some kind of utterly atomized, dehumanized society. Feminist AA and other 'leftist' trends are an essential part of the process; the banks and corporations _love_ atomization and _hate_ families, communities, nations and cultures... The state hates these things too, of course, since they represent sources of solidarity and power and loyalty that are not (yet) under state control...

I am not saying women shouldn't have jobs outside the home. But I think that for most, once they realize just how shitty most of those jobs are, and how deep their connection is with their children... They will tend to strongly de-prioritize "careers", at least for many years. I don't think I've known even one woman, even with a fancy "career", who didn't find that, once she had a child, those work projects and relationships suddenly seemed a bit empty and beside-the-point.

So one further reason _against_ actual AA (and perhaps in support of some other kind) is that actual AA creates a situation in which _both_ sexes are being directed away from the form of life that would be most fulfilling, on the whole, for them. At least, that's a reasonable theory is we can place any stock in near universal cultural traditions, or what is known of human biology and physiology, or what almost everyone seems to just feel and intuit deep down... If instead we are to go by trendy left-wing sociology or corporate Human Resources literature, then perhaps this additional argument fails.


"Remember everyone that there is more to life than a philosophy job, being highly educated means there are lots of other good paying jobs one could enjoy that has security and can support a family."

No offense, but this strikes me as cheery bullshit. I've spent _years_ looking for some halfway decent job outside of the academic gulag and I've never been able to get an interview. A philosophy PhD, or mine, at least, certainly has not given me the option of "lots of good paying jobs" let alone jobs that provide security. I've been offered data-entry or copy-editing (on a contract) and... nothing else. Guess My Gender, if you really have any solid ideas about these "lots of high paying jobs" I would love to hear. But I do mean something solid and specific, not just something like "Philosophers are valued by corporations because they think critically" or other such nonsense.

Maybe it's me. Or maybe I haven't been able to look hard enough while teaching as an adjunct. Who knows. But it doesn't sound plausible to me.


I want to offer one point that hasn't been raised yet: there is evidence that sexism affects teaching evaluations in a concrete and measurable way, in that students systematically give lower evaluations to female teachers compared to male teachers (even in controlled studies with the same person instructing online using a male vs. female name). The same is also true for instructors in other marginalized groups (e.g., non-white, presumed to be working class, presumed to be LGBT+, non-native English speaker, having a visible disability). This means that seemingly objective measures of teaching merit -- how good are the candidates' evals? - are not really objective: the minority female instructor likely has to work a lot harder and do better at teaching to get 4.5/5 evals (say) than would a white male candidate. (For example, see: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10755-014-9313-4)

There's also a lot of empirical evidence that people's CVs are assessed differently due to demographic differences - identical resumes with male names are presumed to be more competent than those with female names, for example, and the same is true of typically white vs. Hispanic or African-American names. (For example, see: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2014/why-does-john-get-stem-job-rather-jennifer).

This might pop up in other ways, as well: philosophy is a field in which there are strong presumptions of "genius" - we assume that the stars of our profession must have some roughly fixed amount of smartness or philosophical ability, and getting the same (or better) results through slow hard work is not as valued. One pernicious effect of this is that men (and white people) are significantly more likely to be perceived as "geniuses" than are women or minorities. (See https://qz.com/959409/philosophers-are-the-original-tech-bros/)

None of this is to suggest that there is no "female bias" at all in hiring, or that the scales completely even out. But there is at least a case to be made -- and of course, this would require robust empirical analysis of the sort I'm not able to do in a blog post - that *some* hiring or assessment preferences for women/minority candidates is a sensible, realistic antidote to the ways in which the teaching and research of women and racial minorities is systematically undervalued (and in some cases, the work of white men over-valued.) That is to say, there may be some reason to think that that (given the sorts of features mentioned above) a minority woman candidate whose CV is equally "objectively good" (whatever that means) as a white male's has actually had to work harder and achieve more in order to reach this same result.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that *anyone* in this market has it easy, including white men! And there are surely ways in which they have it especially hard. But the conversation should not ignore the other ways in which women/minorities have it hard, especially if these can lead to similar amounts of effort/"talent" producing different results.

Marcus Arvan

Tim: I don't mean to contest that there are significant gender effects in hiring (the ADPA report indicates that there are). However, I am not convinced that those effects (whatever their causes) explain why you received zero interviews. I was on the market just a few years ago (during the time the ADPA data was collected), and in my last two years on the market (as a straight white male) I received 7 and 13 interviews, respectively.

This makes me wonder whether there might be some other explanation for your job-market performance. If you don't mind me asking (and no worries if you do):

(1) Which part of the Leiter-ranking does your grad program fall under? (To avoid identifying your program, you need not be precise--just give a range "top 10", "30-40", etc.)

(2) What types of journals are your publications in? (Top 10?, Top 20?, Top 5 specialist?)

(3) How broad is your teaching experience?

(4) How good are your student evaluations?

Here's why I ask. Following something Amanda has said before, my sense is that certain types of job-market strategies are likely to work well for graduates from certain types of programs but work *poorly* for graduates from other types of programs. It would be helpful to find out whether your case coheres with a working hypothesis I've been thinking about...


Serf I agree that if a committee is only going to hire women they should advertise it like that. Although, I don't think that should ever happen (but it does.) The reason I think the committee members were irresponsible is that it seems the inns and outs of search committee decisions should be kept private, for many many reasons. Well, either private or 100% out in the open. I don't think search committee members should have the discretion to tell whomever they please private going ons in the meetings. (although it isn't that big of a deal).

There is female bias. There is prestige bias. There is bias toward certain topics and backgrounds. So given that there are plenty of different biases. And given that (roughly) half of all hires every year are white men, I just don't know how any white man can know that their gender explains why they are not getting a job. Of course, if, like Serf, one is directly told their gender explains things, then you can know why you didn't get that job.(sort of, because there is no guarantee you would have gotten it if the department wasn't set on hiring a woman. perhaps the same woman would have gotten it.) Still, most people aren't told this. And it would only explain why one person did not get one job, not why they didn't get a job overall. I just think it is an epistemic mistake that any one white guy thinks that being a white guy explains why he didn't get a job. Too many confounding factors.

I will repeat one thing I have said is that I still think far too many people think getting top publications is a good strategy for getting a job, when it often isn't. So if people think gender explains why they don't get interviews, maybe they should think about their overall strategy. I think top publications is a very poor strategy for people from low ranked schools, especially past a certain number. One might just consider this possibility, since one obviously cannot do anything about their gender.

Random other fact: At my university many women have been on the market many years and do not have a job or have had many interviews. This might not mean anything overall, but in case one thinks almost every woman gets lots of interviews, they don't. And for these women it must really suck, because they feel like they are failing in spite of this huge advantage. Maybe they are. Just something to think about. I do not mean to tell anybody what they can or cannot talk about.



I am curious what you mean when you talk about people with "no degree" getting a job over you. Do you mean they are ABD? Because, as far as I know, no one other than Kripke has a tt job without a PhD.


Hi Amanda, I can think of 5 women I know personally who got jobs ABD, with no experience or publications. (I didn't mean they got hired no degree then stayed on and got tenure with no degree!) I don't think I know of any cases where similar men got jobs. But in these cases they did, of course, get degrees at some later time (after being hired). Most then also published something, if only dribs and drabs over the next dozen years.

Still, given the glut of highly qualified and accomplished job seekers for many years now, getting hired or even seriously considered while meeting none of these basic standards is mind boggling. (Though all 5 I'm thinking of seemed to feel this was no more than what was due to them.)

I agree with you that a white man can't reasonably assume that, for any job he didn't get, the reason was his race and sex. But he can reasonably assume that, on the whole, he often didn't get interviewed or hired for that reason (assuming he applies often and over a few years, without knowing much about many particular failed applications). The only exceptions might be white men who are at the very top of the top of the profession by all other metrics. It would be silly to think otherwise, given what we all know about policies, politics, and so on.

TT lady


The bias toward women exists not because it is beneficial for those women. I don't think individual departments are motivated by such abstract considerations re: advancing the careers of women generally as a societal good. Departments are more likely to hire women because it is beneficial *for those departments* to have a gender balance on their faculty. The administration or other departments or students may be getting on their case about their gender imbalance. Maybe they feel that to attract more majors, they should have more women on the faculty to attract, particularly, female students.

Also, I'm a bit puzzled— you seem to be operating on the assumption that men on the market are more likely to have children than women? Idk if that's the case, but I see no reason to believe that women on the market are all (or much more likely to be) single and spending their vacations in Cuba, while men are all (or much more likely to be) married with kids.

Also, I am a woman who has no desire to stay at home with my children. I love my kids. I love picking them up from daycare. I love the days we have when, energized by work, I spend time focused purely on them. I find my work more, not less, meaningful after having children.


Hi TT,
I didn't mean to imply that (actual) AA exists "because it is beneficial for those women". What I meant was that the official justification for it is that (supposedly) it is good for women, and that (supposedly) that's good for society (in making it more fair or 'equitable' or something like that). Would you disagree that this is the kind of justification typically offered? E.g., "We're helping women overcome unfair obstacles and discrimination" or "It's good for philosophy/society to have women better 'represented' in the discipline'"...?

Of course, the real causes might have little to do with anyone consciously aiming to improve anything.

You're right, of course, that individual hiring committees are not motivated mainly (if at all) by some wish to improve society. But then we have to ask _why_ they tend to think it's "beneficial for those departments to have a gender balance on the faculty". This is hardly a self-evident proposition--that achieving some nebulously defined "balance" is not just good, but so important that it's worth systematically privileging female applicants. I don't think the main reason is that they just have empirical evidence that doing this attracts more female students. And for that matter, why is it important to attract female students? Maybe you'd have just as many _students_ with an all-male faculty, even if they were mostly male students. Why would that be bad? (Is it bad if most nursing students or English students are female? Personally it seems to me it's neither good nor bad in itself--it all depends on how things came to be that way, what the effects might be on people or society...) None of this is desirable except given certain ideological assumptions or value judgments which are shaping the whole culture over many decades.


No, I'm not assuming that men are more likely to have kids than women. I just meant that it's absurd to worry about "privilege" and hardship for a class of people (women in general) who just are clearly not particularly disadvantaged or poor or saddled with big responsibilities--especially when there is another class (including lots of women) who clearly are in that situation, and a sub-class (the men with kids) who are being systematically treated as if they were "privileged" and comfortable... in order to then assign the worst and most precarious jobs to a sub-class who'll in fact be most adversely affected, along with their dependents...

If you personally are happy with your situation, good for you. Still I'd suggest that on the whole the emphasis on having a "career" is deeply misguided and in the end disappointing for most people, and _especially_ for young women. Pretty much all the evidence and experience available to us suggests that, on the whole, this is a very poor value system and form of life for most women. Though, again, I think "careers" and jobs are mostly bad for most people; it's just that, for various reasons, this focus is especially bad for young women--and by the time they realize it might have been a big mistake, many of them have already missed out on a lot of more fulfilling experiences and projects... One problem with academic treatments of these issues may be that the kinds of people who get heard--relatively successful academics--are such an unrepresentative and tiny sample of humanity; but they typically seem not to realize just how different they are from most people. What works for them, given their very unique career paths and their fairly unusual temperaments and values, is not likely to work for most people.

TT lady

Serf: I disagree that this (creating an equitable society, or correcting for disadvantage) is the type of justification offered. The main consideration I've heard from faculty members who think it is a good thing to have a gender balance on faculty is that female students are being driven away from the male-dominated department. And no, it's not just that one attracts majors who look like them (so the #s would stay the same), but rather, those would-be majors who are women look at the department, get a feel for the social interactions among students and faculty, and think "not for me" because of how male-dominated it is. This does happen. Whether this happens regularly enough to make a large difference in numbers, I don't know. Another consideration I've heard is that women are less likely to harass their students, and more likely to create an environment in which students feel supported if they are subject to harassment. Also a real thing: men who are accustomed to being taught by women treat their female peers with more respect. These are all pragmatic considerations about one's own department (including making the experience of female students better), not grand considerations about creating an equitable society, or correcting for whatever disadvantage women have (relative to men) in philosophy. But I have seen responses like that of "AnotherPerspective" above, in response to allegations of unfairness. I think such responses are a bit wrong-headed, since hiring someone is not an exercise in discovering who is most deserving of the position, but rather, discovering who is the best person *for one's own department*.


I think we're talking past each other.

Yes, of course, the main justification you'll hear _from faculty members_ is stuff to do with "gender balance" in that department, etc.

At the same time, there are much larger and older forces at work in society as a whole which largely explain _why_ individual people or departments nowadays are so concerned with this kind of stuff. Or so it seems to me, anyway. I mean, in 1920 (let's say) there were very few people in philosophy or any discipline or any sector of society worrying publicly about "gender balance". Now it's almost impossible to find any line of work or profession or hobby that isn't regularly being examined and re-examined and criticized on this basis. (Not "enough" female video game designers or rock drummers or rappers or philosophy of math specialists... etc.) Surely you'd agree that the broad change across the whole society, including various particular philosophy departments, is due to larger political-social-economic factors?

I'm simply saying that policies and preferences at the micro-level of some little philosophy department don't merely reflect the ideas or interests of some handful of people directly involved. These are mostly just cogs in a big machine responding to pressures and incentives from much higher up, and from long before these people even got involved... Do you disagree?


A few thoughts about other points you raise, to do with 'pragmatic' considerations...

A lot of this seems to be theorizing about how the sexes interact, psychology and socializing, etc. I don't know how to assess some of these claims. For instance, I was taught by a fair number of female professors throughout my schooling. Since I was always (I think) pretty 'respectful' toward women, I really have no idea how that experience might have affected me. My general sense is that most guys who are interested in philosophy or other highly nerdy intellectual pursuits are already pre-selected in these respects--you're not generally going to get too many super-high-T macho men who aren't 'respectful'. (I realize many feminists have a different impression, but I just can't believe it based on my own experiences.)

In any case, I'd just add that there are so many more obvious things going on psycho-sexually-socially in this context; so the overall picture hardly supports the idea that "gender balance" is a worthy ideal.

One thing to bear in mind is that, for most men, the presence of young nubile women is going to be VERY distracting. It's going to induce all kinds of behaviors and vibes that, if we really are concerned with purely philosophical aims, are probably not so great. When I was a grad student, it was simply impossible for me to concentrate on Plato or Frege when I was surrounded by these gorgeous young things. I loved it, of course! But it wasn't exactly conducive to philosophical excellence. Much of the time I felt I was competing with other guys in class, or the male professor, for the approval or attention of the ladies. And it was impossible to just talk philosophy with the more enticing ones; there was always, on some level, something like flirtation or sexual evaluation at least--the better the debate or discussion or exploration, the more sexual it became. How could it be otherwise? Talking and getting to know someone of the opposite sex intellectually (if you're into that one) is intrinsically sexy if you're an intellectual (and if the other person isn't so unattractive in other ways that it's a non-starter). And I'm pretty sure this goes on for women too, if not in quite the same way.

So, of course, given these inevitable human dimensions of "gender balance" and unisex institutions, you then get all kinds of problems. Men competing with each other for female attention. Women competing with each other for male attention. Men thinking that they've been encouraged to make a move, then "harassing" someone as a result. (Not to say that there is no genuine harassment--just that "harassment" is a predictable effect of our whole societal set-up.) Many male professors holding attractive women to very different standards than male students. How could they not? The males are instinctively perceived as highly threatening sexual competitors. The females are instinctively perceived as non-threatening, alluring, a source of psycho-sexual validation... And other males, embittered or resentful, becoming misogynistic... Just scratching the surface here.

To me it still seems utterly ludicrous that I'm supposed to interact in the same way with a bunch of 20-year old dudes, who have _zero_ effect on me for the most, along with similarly aged girls, who are primal lust objects for pretty much all men of all ages. I'm expected to act like some kind of sexless robot, when half of them are prancing into class with insane T/A cleavage, heels, etc. It's not humanly possible. Of course I do my very best to evaluate them impartially. But come on. In effect, the situation is that female sexual power is almost entirely unconstrained while male sexual desire is supposed to be shameful ('inappropriate') and, if acted on even just a bit, possibly illegal and career-destroying. (All traditional norms of female modesty and restraint are bad, while traditional norms for men are maintained and amped up...) This weird unnatural situation is not good for anyone. I can't imagine it's particularly good for education or philosophy.

Of course some might say I'm just reporting on my own twisted weird psychology. No. I'm just a regular guy, just being honest. Men who deny having these feelings are either very unreflective or else they're just trying to get social approval for having (supposedly) enlightened and virtuous attitudes.

All that to say, I'm just not sure that "gender balance" is good in any way, let alone something that's so valuable we should be working towards it. (And I've really only mentioned a few 'problematic' dimensions of "gender balance"...)


Lol I've had many very attractive male professors and grad students friends, but I think working with them philosophically has been not difficult at all. Indeed, the fact that I might find an interlocutor 'sexy' is something I might spend 30 seconds thinking about and another 2 minutes joking about. That's it. In fact, I have a good friend who I am attracted to, and who is attracted to me, at least in the sense we both find each other good looking. However we have a great, purely platonic philosophical friendship. I think this is what grown ups do for goodness sake. Sure attraction might be there, but if you are not 14 you get past that very quickly. As a young attractive woman I have no problem having philosophical friendships with males who may or may not be attracted to me. It really makes no difference. (Of course, on occasion someone might have a "crush" where they get very nervous or what not, but I think it takes a lot more than someone simply being attractive for that to happen.) And besides, that is part of life.

Thinking Things Over

If one were to take a TT position at a community college, then do you think that the chances of being taken seriously as an applicant for university positions in the future go out the window?

TT lady

I'm .... speechless. And done engaging.


Hi Amanda,

"As a young attractive woman..."

I'm sure things are very different for women, and very different for young attractive women. But I was mainly talking about how things are experienced by men (young/attractive or not). When you say it "really makes no difference" I have to wonder about that. Sex is a very powerful force in human life. In the old days, I assume a lot of really important things happened in the universities as a result of sexual relationships or sexual favors or sexual pressures and dynamics that nowadays would be considered totally unacceptable (though they still go on anyway). Now we have an increasingly complicated legalistic scheme for trying to manage sexuality. You don't even that sexual dynamics lead to all kinds of 'implicit bias', for example? Like, for example, a senior male prof might treat "an attractive young woman" or her work very differently than in the case of an unattractive woman, or a young man? I don't know. Common sense or everyday experience seems (to me) to suggest that this would be a very strong tendency.


Hi Serf,

Yes, I may have been overstating the "no difference". Indeed if there is anything the recent flurry of sexual harassment stories has taught is that far more of this stuff goes around than many realized. And I'm sure some people are treated differently for the reasons you say, at least sometimes. Whether women are treated better or worse I think varies, but different yes. And yes I've had to deal with creeps in philosophy. I guess I just figure it's life that a certain percentage of people will be like that. Personally I was kind of confused by #metoo because I just thought it was obvious that being an adult woman meant you have run into creeps here and there.

Anyway, I do think, at least, a lot of people can have philosophical friendships in spite of attraction. And yes, I have never been a young man and the biology works different there. I guess in my experience most men are initially flattered when I tease them, and once we get past that then we can usually be friends. But, you have a decent point this isn't always the case. I feel some of the worst of it is actually women who dislike each other because they feel to be in some sort of competition. I get along with men easier than woman in philosophy and I'm not sure why. Anyhow I would certainly want my high schoolers (if I had kids) to go to single gender school as I think they could learn better. But past high school even if these things interfere,I think we need to try our best to deal with it. And even if we can't get rid of the tension entirely, we can do well enough where a philosophical community is still possible in spite of attraction.


To be clear, I didn't mean to suggest all sexual tension and different treatment comes from harassers or creeps.My guess is some male professors will treat attractive women better and that would be a benefit. But I also think it is just as likely that they might not take her seriously so it is a detriment. Or, they might just feel awkward and hence she gets less feedback. In the end I think the positive/negative treatment that comes from being an object of attraction to others balances out.


Thinking Things Over,

My guess would be this is not true at teaching schools at all. It would likely be true for research schools. But if you are able to have the CC job and still do decent publishing (not great or top) I think you would be an attractive prospect for many teaching jobs. What do you think Marcus?

Marcus Arvan

Amanda: I completely agree. I could easily see someone moving from a full-time CC position to a TT position at a teaching-focused four-year university. It would just be important to publish and excel as a teacher. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone move from a CC to a research school.

Marcus Arvan

As an additional aside, I’m not sure I would worry too much about moving from a CC to a 4-year university. I hear full-time CC jobs are awesome: that they can pay well and be a heck of a lot less stressful than a job at a 4-year...

Thinking Things Over

Thank you for the encouraging responses. :)

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