Gender bias in hiring at Carleton and a possible solution (2 Feb 2015)

On 26 September 2014 in my Senate blog (here, but you will have scroll down), I commented on gender inequities in hiring of faculty member at Carleton. Recent events have convinced me that it is time to reprise that analysis, especially in light of the Board of Governors seemingly having a gender bias in its open discussion of sexual violence (see this blog for 29 January 2015). Seemingly male board members mostly cared about the university’s reputation, while seemingly female board members mostly cared about education, counseling, and the victims of sexual violence [I say ‘seemingly’ because of not knowing what gender board members self-identify as, for which I apologize].

Equity Services at Carleton presents the data embedded below (source) (click on the image for a magnified version).
Carleton has far fewer women in faculty and managerial posts than do other universities across Canada. However, Carleton has a greater than expected proportion of female employees in other staff jobs, i.e. non-faculty, non-managerial. And this does not even touch on gender inequities in salary, which I am sure exists at Carleton, but have not yet seen definitive statistics to back-up this claim.

A 29 January 2015 article (here) titled “Where are the women professors in Canada’s math and science departments?” by Michael Kuzmin, Arik Motskin, and Zack Gallinger stated:

Most would agree that a floor of 10% representation of women should be possible without much difficulty, even despite the so-called ‘pipeline problem’ that may result in relatively fewer candidates. Yet so many of our universities fail to meet even this distressingly low bar. Carleton University in Ottawa stands out in this regard. Of the 29 regular faculty in its computer science department, there is only a single woman professor. In its Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, there are only 2 women out of 51 regular faculty. By any measure, these are stark and disturbing figures for Canada’s self-described ‘Capital University’.

There should be huge outrage over these words, and not just because Carleton is at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. The 10% floor for female faculty hires, which Carleton does not even meet in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering, is too low of a floor. Let’s instead invoke the 40/40 rule, which states that the floor for both female and male employees should be 40% in order to achieve some modicum of gender equity. Have we forgotten the Lortie Commission’s [Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing] discussion of the 40/40 rule for nominated and elected officials, which was promulgated two dozen years ago?

Gender inequities at Carleton are not just limited to engineering and computer science. Look at the dearth of female faculty members in chemistry and biology. As I documented herein on 26 September 2014, less than one-quarter of the faculty members in biology are female, even though over half of the PhDs in biology are female. And the fraction of female faculty members in biology at Carleton has been decreasing for the past decade.

What can we do to increase representation of female faculty members in science and engineering, as well as in the rest of the university? Mary Ann Mason gives a few good ideas in her 3 March 2014 article in Chronicles of Higher Education (here). One of her major recommendations was to provide better child-care. Unfortunately, Carleton’s master plan shows a new building displacing the existing child-care centre. This seems like a step backwards in terms of recruiting and retaining female faculty members.

I want to highlight one intriguing idea for improving gender diversity of faculty, an idea that was mentioned by former prime minister Kim Campbell, who admitted to stumbling upon this idea after first being elected as an MLA in a double-member riding in Vancouver Centre. Admittedly, she was not talking about gender equity in academic appointments, but rather the House of Commons. But the same approach is applicable. Kim Campbell’s proposal was to hire a pair of tenure-track people with each search. Interview double the usual number of people and then hire the best candidate that self-identifies as female and the best candidate that self-identifies as male from that search. This means that searches would happen half as often, but that really is not a problem insofar as deans can juggle hires amongst their many units. For Kim Campbell, this translated into two-member ridings, sometimes called double member ridings, with the proviso that the two elected members must be of different genders.

While Kim Campbell’s idea is interesting, it has pitfalls. First, what do you do about candidates that do not self-identify gender (as I refuse to do) or self-identify outside the gender binary, such as trans, queer, and intersex individuals? Clearly we should not require job applicants to self-identify gender. Second, even if there would magically (dystopian magic) be a gender dichotomy, this would not solve problems with other forms of hiring inequity, such as racial inequities, where so-called ‘at-large’ ridings are often created to water-down minority votes. Note the above data from Equity Services show these other inequities are real at Carleton. Even if not perfect, would hiring pairs of people help correct our seemingly obvious gender bias in faculty members, especially in science and engineering? Would the benefits outweigh the costs? What can or should be done for other disadvantaged groups? This is a sufficiently large policy issue that Carleton’s Board of Governors should weigh in on possible policy solutions. Not only is Carleton’s reputation at stake, but so are the careers of many amazing potential faculty members.

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