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Mon 13th June 2016

Alleged Sexism in University Promotions

Filed under: General — Ministry of Men's Affairs @ 11:54 am

Today news that ‘among top researchers’ (whatever that means), men at NZ universities are three times more likely to be promoted to professor. Unfortunately there was no indication of this study on the web page of Ann Brower from Lincoln University who was interviewed as someone involved in the research, so it wasn’t possible to evaluate it. If this news release was done before the study was peer reviewed and published, that seems a bit irresponsible.

Assuming the gender gap in promotions to professor is accurate, this is largely accounted for by the fact that only half as many women put themselves forward for such promotions, according to Steve Weaver, emeritus professor who chairs Canterbury University’s Academic Promotions Board. However, such simple explanations just won’t do for feminists who much prefer to believe women are discriminated against. So Radio NZ interviewed Nicola Gasten, Associate Professor at Auckland University and author of the book ‘Why Science is Sexist’. She acknowledged Mr Weaver’s explanation by saying in condescending tone “It’s a common explanation; it’s one I’ve heard many times…” then went on to admit that it’s “probably true” but there is a question about whether that accounts fully or partially for the gender imbalance. She said that “alongside that” is “clear evidence” in the literature of unconscious gender bias in evaluations of publication qualilty, CVs and teaching effectiveness. She then begrudgingly acknowledged that she hadn’t been able to see much evidence of “direct sexism” in the universities she had been involved in, so she wrote the book to try to explain the gender imbalance and concluded that ‘unconscious bias’ is the culprit.

Well, perhaps there is unconsious bias but actually we doubt that peer reviewers of research papers even pay any attention to the gender of the authors, assuming their names allow their gender to be known at all. It just may be possible that women present research and CVs that are on average somewhat inferior to that from men, for reasons such as men’s greater priority placed on their careers. Ms Gasten claimed that hirers and promotors will chose a particular CV then ‘retrospectively’ justify that on the basis that the CV showed more relevant experience, better qualifications etc. Well hang on, if one applicant is better qualified than another why would that selection be attributed to ‘unconscious bias’ requiring retrospective jusitification? We admit that we haven’t read Ms Gasten’s book but based on her reasoning in the interview we doubt it would be worth the time.

Ah, but Ms Gasten had the solution! Provide financial incentives to universities based on how many women they promote; i.e. ‘positive discrimination’ in which female applicants from a smaller pool will have a much greater chance of being promoted than will male applicants from a bigger pool. This will almost inevitably mean that women are promoted having inferior qualifications to male applicants. Yeah, go girls!

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