September 12, 2015

SCIENCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN “SOCIAL JUSTICE” STATUS POSTURING: Passions Supplant Reason in Dialogue on Women in Science: Would the same criticisms of our study have been made if it had revealed anti-women hiring attitudes?

In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we published an article on data from five national studies that took us to an unexpected destination. The data showed that, in tenure-track hiring, faculty prefer female job candidates over identically qualified male ones.

Because that finding runs counter to claims of sexist hiring, it was met in the news media and in academe with incredulity and often panic. We have responded to those criticisms in five pieces in the Huffington Post (parts one, two, three, four, and five), as well as another essay in American Scientist and one on the website of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Some critics saw in our findings a disavowal of their own experiences with academic sexism. Even though our study examined only entry-level hiring, they viewed it as invalidating biases they faced outside the hiring context and as an attack on their advocacy for women. But data from multiple studies using different methods kept revealing the same striking preference for hiring women. So we reported the empirical data, hoping to generate an honest, productive dialogue about modern discrimination in the academy. Since hiring is no longer a roadblock, where else might we need to direct efforts and advocacy to help more women succeed?

In the latest critique of our results, Joan Williams, a law professor, and Jessi Smith, a psychology professor, claimed that our hiring study was “plagued by five serious methodological flaws” that negated our conclusions. None of their claims are valid. Let’s examine them individually. . . .

In their zeal to impugn our methods and analyses, these commentators invoked the specter of methodological flaws to dismiss a message, ratified by real-world hiring, that they seem to find personally threatening. Until there is full gender-fairness, we cannot enjoy any “comfort food.” In the interim, we hope our critics realize there is plenty of crow to eat.

Read the whole thing. But it’s notable how many of the critics were more concerned with issues of their own personal self-image than with actual data. And, of course, there’s a lot of money at stake: If there’s not actually a women-in-science problem, Intel might quit redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars from research into the women-in-science field, and a lot of people might have to get real jobs.

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