A friendly reminder
While preparing my post on advice for undergraduates, I came across Daniel S. Hamermesh’s 2004 essay of advice for young female PhDs. This isn’t really my area of expertise, but it was an interesting read. Here are two ways in which young women have to work harder than men to make it to tenure:
University administrators love committees that are balanced by gender; but the relative supply of women, especially from economics departments, is small. […] The time spent on them eats up research time and usually generates minimal credit in your tenure decision. Requests like this are another form of sexual exploitation.
Readers and tenure referees tend to assume that a young economist who coauthors with a more senior economist, especially a thesis advisor, is doing the dirty work rather than providing the central innovation of the study. This is regrettably especially true when the junior person is a woman and the senior economist is male.
Women get a lot of advice on avoiding sexism – it ranges from well-meaning and insightful observations like these, to patronizing double standards (“don’t walk home alone”) and meaningless restrictions on our freedom (“don’t wear that tank top”). Most if it is pretty ineffective, but also relatively harmless.
Still, let’s not lose sight of a larger point: the people best equipped to combat sexism are usually men in positions of power. I imagine that it’s tough, early in your career, to turn down an administrative position or tell your supervisor that you don’t want to co-author a paper with him. Older, male professors, on the other hand, might have time to spend mentoring a younger professor, or social capital to burn as the voice of reason on a tenure committee. Making sure that the field is safe and welcoming for women is also their job.