The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin has decided that it’s not enough to hire junior women faculty and wait for them to progress through the “leaky pipeline“–it has a specific strategy for hiring women as full professors (h/t Inside Higher Ed). (Although if you read down into the story, you’ll see that they’re also hiring these women’s husbands/partners who are also scholars, presumably as senior faculty, too.)
“What they did is very unusual, because there are more issues with recruiting full professors, who have more complicated lives and who may be very happy where they are,” said Philippa Levine, a British historian who will be moving to Austin from the University of Southern California. Levine said she wasn’t looking to move, but was swayed by the “dynamism” she found at Texas. And at a time when public universities are complaining that they can’t outbid private universities in putting together packages, Texas did so.
Texas “absolutely” offered her more. “It’s an entirely appropriate and extremely generous package,” she said. “My sense was that UT was very shrewd in understanding the way these politics operate.” She added that while she is pleased to see Texas and other institutions hiring more women in the junior ranks, “you don’t change the structures” unless you also expand the number of women in the senior ranks.
UT focused on identifying people who were “moveable,” and worked at recruiting them! What an unusual strategy for women job candidates–regular readers will recall Associate Professor Alice’s Adventures at Blunderland U. on a misbegotten interview.
Because these are women who have successful careers at their former institutions and no immediate need to move, Diehl said that the efforts succeeded in part because faculty members at Texas were keeping their ears open. “We seize opportunities where they arise, and when we have a shot at recruiting a distinguished scholar who is a woman, we try to make that happen,” he said. “We’re looking out there and asking who is movable.”
[Anthropologist Jennifer] Johnson-Hanks, one of those who was, said that she had great students and colleagues at Berkeley, and wasn’t so much looking as “willing to listen” when she and her husband were approached. On the whole, she said she was drawn by “an intellectual vision for where the university was going,” and she said that the prime factor in moving was related to scholarship and the sense of vitality she found.
But to the extent money was a role, UT held the upper hand (and the decision was made prior to the most recent round of cuts at the University of California). She said Texas offered more money, and that while Berkeley matched the offer, other financial factors favored Texas. “We could buy a gorgeous house for what we got selling a tiny house in California,” she said. “We will be living where there are great public schools, but in California, we couldn’t afford a home in the areas with great public schools.”
UT has a pretty weak hand to play (in my view) in terms of location. (It’s a great location for Texas, but it’s in east Texas nonetheless–and Historiann just simply couldn’t handle the heat and humidity for most of the year. Plus, it’s in Texas. People move from Texas to Colorado–not the other way around! Not that anyone has asked me to move, yet.) But focusing on the amenities offered versus the cost of living overall seems like a good strategy for recruiting people who by definition are going to be established scholars in their 40s and 50s. But, here’s another important factor in this strategy:
Texas officials said that they could not have made the progress they did at the senior levels without a commitment from the senior administration and a willingness to spend real time on the process. Identifying, recruiting and moving senior faculty members takes longer. “Most of these efforts started two years ago. This is not a one-year thing,” said Richard Flores, senior associate dean.
(Emphasis mine.) What do you think? (Check out the first few comments on the article: ZOMG discrimination!!!!111!!!! ZOMG someone should sue111!!!!! because for the first time ever, more women than men were hired as full professors. Someone call the Whaaaaaambulance! Funny how sensitivities about “discrimination” are so highly attuned whenever anyone but white men come out on top.)