Women-Only Science

The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research is opting for more female scientists. Two hundred women-only professorships are to be created, says Minister Annette Schavan, having observed that the current 11 percent of female professors is decidedly too low.

Details here if you read German, summary here if you don’t.

Comments

  1. #1 agnostic
    March 24, 2008

    Now America is really going to kick some European ass in science. Quotas mean hiring less qualified applicants, so this numbskullery should spur an exodus of qualified but unappreciated male German scientists to the US, assuming we don’t imitate their folly. Hey, it worked in our and their favor before.

  2. #2 Maria
    March 24, 2008

    Quotas mean hiring less qualified applicants

    Or else they mean hiring equally qualified applicants, who you would otherwise have overlooked because your hiring committee was sexist as all hell and couldn’t tell “qualified” from a hole in the wall. I will bet you a case of beer that this turns out to be good for German science.

  3. #3 Chris
    March 25, 2008

    I always have difficulty with affirmative action initiatives of any kind. On the one hand, discrimiation based solely on gender or race, or any other criterion that does not affect a candidate’s ability to do the job is a terrible a shameful mark on us all. In some cases quotas may help bridge the gap and reduce the ‘consequences’ of discrimination. However, I fear that policies such as these do nothing to decrease actual discrimination, and can actually do more harm than good by breeding suspicion that better qualified candidates are being passed over due to quotas and that coworkers may not have been hired had they not met certain criteria mandated by quotas. I believe the only way to put discriminative hiring practices behind us as a society is by progressive, ‘organic’, and unfortuanately, slow changes. I know of (almost) no one under the age of 40 that believes women are less capable than men as scientists. We have to rely on these people to ensure fair hiring practices because while it is not perfect, it is the only way that doesn’t substitute indolent discrimination for institutionalized discrimination.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2008

    Maria: Now way I’m taking that bet. Yes, quotas can mean what that phrase says, but we are talking about such small numbers here that there is no way that this will apply. Also underlying the assumption of quality is that the process of ranking people has any accuracy at the scale we are talking about here.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    March 25, 2008

    Chris, you may not know anyone who believes they believe that, but the unexamined attitudes are just as problematic. Ask people instead whether they believe women are as dedicated to science (after all, they take time off to have kids, doncha know) or whether they believe women get in their own way when practicing science. Ask them what they think would change if their department were suddenly 50% female. Ask them what they’ve done to specifically ensure strong representation by women in their search committees and candidate pools.

    I don’t know that I’d want to be one of the 200. The barrier to proving myself would be that much higher. But it would have been nice, as a student, to see women in these positions. That’s who will be helped by this.

    Maria, I’ll second your case of beer, although I think it’ll be ten years or more before anyone is in a position to collect.

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