The process was completely unfair

Posted: January 10, 2012 by Jender in women held to different standard

This happened within the last three years. I had to be on a search committee outside my area because I’m the only woman in the department (our affirmative action office doesn’t like male-only search committees). It was clear from the beginning that half the committee already had their guy chosen and the other half had their guy (both guys already having been met on the conference circuit). But to please affirmative action, a woman also had to be offered a campus visit. There was an excellent female candidate from a top-5 program, with glowing letters of rec (the other two candidates were from much lower-ranked programs). But for one of the committee members, what finally swayed him to vote for her to get a campus visit was that he happened to know she was married to a top-notch person in a cognate field, and “I’m sure her husband checks over her work, so that gives me more confidence that her work is good.” So we had the campus visits and the female candidate did very well. Nearly everyone agreed she was the smartest of the three. She was also described as “charming” and “delightful.” Now there was a danger she might actually be hired. Suddenly new concerns were raised. Her website was checked to see how far along her papers were. Her dissertation summary was read to see if it was really that promising. And then a search committee member contacted a buddy of his, someone who just graduated from a second-tier program and who happens to know the candidate. The buddy said those glowing letters of rec from top people didn’t really mean anything because the people in her (top-5) program were just trying to get her out. So on the basis of that one junior person’s word, all the letters were discounted. That, added to the vague worries about her potential, torpedoed her case, and we hired one of the guys who had been wanted all along. I think a good case could have been made for hiring any of the three candidates, so it’s not that the outcome was unjust, but the process itself was completely unfair. Unfortunately, I have no way to prove that — it would be my word against everyone else’s — so I’ve just kept my mouth shut.

Comments are closed.