The overwhelming whiteness and maleness of many academic disciplines is an on-going concern. Here’s an excerpt of a piece by Colleen Flaherty in Insidehighered.com on the struggle for diversity in political science:
Imagine there’s one political science faculty slot to fill, and two equally qualified candidates emerge from the pack. One applicant is a woman, and there are few women serving in the department. Her area of expertise, however — Europe — is already well-represented among current professors, and they’re hoping to “fill out the map.” The other candidate is a white male – a demographic well-represented in the department — but his area of expertise, Africa, is something the department is hungry for.
What does the search committee do?
“The answer is that you go to your dean and ask for two slots,” said Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government at Harvard University and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University — acknowledging that the response in most cases will be “No.”
Beyond that, she said, there are no easy answers: Hochschild walked the room here through a variety of what she called “problematic” solutions to the faculty question; hiring the woman in the hope that she’ll mentor female undergraduates, or represent “family” concerns at faculty meetings, puts unfair expectations on her. But not hiring her could be worse — even if the department ends up with a more global orientation.
Hochshild posed her not-so-hypothetical dilemma (she said her department has faced such choices) to a group of political scientists here Thursday during a session on “Equality in the Academy,” at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. While speakers in the discussion all agreed that the discipline needs to become more diverse, they noted challenges — such as the one in Hothschild’s dilemma — to getting there.