Monday, February 29, 2016

Epiphany Du Jour: No Female Bosses For Me?

I saw a tweet:

And it made me realize something:  I have never been in a department that had a female chairperson or department head.  There have been female deans, but a single woman has been my direct supervisor.  That is, the departments (UVM, TTU, McG, and Carleton) are 0 for 7.  To be fair, when TTU's poli sci department was in receivership, the outside chair was, um, influenced by a junior female faculty member, and she did a great job trying to get him to avoid the dumb mistakes he was inclined to make.

What to make of this record?  A friend on twitter jokingly blamed me, but, for those who don't know, chairs are picked by the deans with or without the support of the department.  Who are usually the candidates?  The full professors who have not yet done it.  When there are none of those or those that have not done it were overlooked for a reason, then the dean will look to associate professors, which can be dicey since the fulls have a big vote on whether associate professors can be full professors.  And, yes, in small departments, junior faculty are sometimes asked.  I met one of those while I was in Quebec two weeks ago.  As long as the department has little say on that person's tenure, then ok, I guess.

Anyhow, one reason why I have had no female chairs is that the leaky pipeline and path dependence has meant few women have been sufficiently senior while I was at the various places.  Both UVM and McG had some kind of problem with promoting people to full (I don't know the deets on the former but experienced it in the latter), so that limited the pool.  At TTU, the most senior female was not yet full, if I remember correctly.  At McGill, the one female full prof had done it a long time ago.  The person who would have been the best chair was hired as an associate while I was there and was not promoted to full until after I left, and she was smart enough not to be chair while associate. At my current spot, there are no women who are full professors.

Yow. Yes, even as we do a better job of producing more female Phds and hiring women at the junior level, there are still not enough women who have gotten tenure and then promoted to full to provide a pool of potential chair candidates.  At least not when I was at these various places.  The leaky pipeline refers to the problem of women dropping out or behind, through a variety of reasons including insufficient support while bearing children, not getting cited enough (there is bias in citations), not getting good teaching evals if those affect promotion (evals are biased), women get buried in greater service obligations, and so on.  Not great at all.

Is there anything else going on?  Did the various deans avoid selecting women to be chairs in poli sci departments in which I have worked?    Not as far as I can tell.  [Update: a friend has told me that she has been in several departments where the faculty vote and women get repeatedly overlooked--which shows the limits of my experience].  In one, there had been women who served on that capacity before my time (McG).  I think there might have been a female Director of NPSIA in its past.  I do think it is about the relative lack of women at the higher ranks.  The other possibility, of course, is that departments run by women have not hired me.  So, it could be about me, I suppose, but I doubt it.

The tweet above suggests that male feminists may not be sincere about wanting a female boss.  All I can say is that I definitely would have preferred some female chairs in my career.  I have only had two very good to excellent chairs in my career, so the average male chair is meh at best.  Most of the women I have known, especially two "most likely to be chair" candidates would have been superior.  And yes, they would be far better than I would be.  Note that I have yet to be chair, so make of that what you will.

Anyhow, there has been much progress, and I do have some female friends who chair departments, but there is much more progress to be made.

1 comment:

R. William Ayres said...

FWIW, both the current and immediate past chair of Poli Sci at my current employer are women, as is the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. That said, I don't work "for" these folks because of my one-toe-in-the-department existence. I have worked for women as direct supervisors, but never in a Chair role.