Sunday, October 11, 2009
I recently saw an interesting talk at a conference about diversity. It was by a white man who has fearlessly fought for women and under-represented minorities (URM). His department has >50% women or URM faculty (in a STEM field). It's a relatively new department, but there was still clearly a major effort to recruit women and URM. The amazing thing is that their publications/faculty, annual research $/faculty, and annual citations/faculty member are outstanding and would be respected for any department in the field, so they are clearly not sacrificing quality to hire these diverse faculty. While I don't envision my department ever approaching this, it make me think that I need to be a conscious advocate for other women/URM. When I think back to faculty searches where we passed on women/URM who went on to be successful faculty at other schools it makes me sad that they could have added to the numbers in our department. It also makes me remember that I should make a conscious effort to always look for a qualified woman or URM for opportunities (awards, session chairs at meetings, etc.). I know that I've been the beneficiary of many little (and not so little) boosts of this type and I need to pay it forward. It also reminds me that although life isn't perfect as a woman in academia, things have sure come a long way in 50 years. Heck even in 10 years, the number of women in my fields has increased and the percentage of women faculty having kids before tenure is much higher than it used to be. So, while I long for the day when F equals greater than or equal to two in my department, I'm feeling inspired to try to affect change through big and little ways.