Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Female Academics

New research on women in academia offers some interesting findings on what hampers the progress of female academics:
In a blind analysis of more than 600 letters of recommendations submitted for about 200 applicants for academic positions at a single university, researchers identified descriptors generally used to recommend females versus males. When these letters were used to rank candidates, those with more “feminine” descriptors (compassionate, supportive, caring, etc.) were ranked lower. In other words, “…a much higher proportion of female candidates — regardless of their overall qualifications — are praised with these words that appear to hurt their chances of being hired for faculty jobs.”
As someone who will never be described as "compassionate," "supportive" or "caring," I have observed that female academics in North America often put the needs of colleagues, students, their departments etc. ahead of their own, which, as we can see from this study, hurts their careers. However, powerful women who do not see supporting others and serving someody else's needs as important are also disliked because they end up being considered "aggressive," "cold" and "bitchy." Which ultimately also hurts their careers.

The problem lies, of course, in the social construction of femininity in a society that requires women to be subservient while despising them if they comply and punishing them if they do not.

1 comment:

Izgad said...

I have begun making a point to my students of how women are trapped by this issue of compassion. Damned if you you do damned if you do not. I guess there is hope for me yet. :p