The Feminist Philosophers have begun a series of posts on implicit bias and hiring practices. As readers may remember from discussions last year, women are only about twenty percent of philosophers, making philosophy among the worst in the humanities with regard to sex parity. Statistics are similarly dismal for racial and ethnic minorities.
There have been many important discussions about this in the philosophy blogging world over the past year, and one of the recurring themes is that of implicit biases and unconscious schemas. The Feminist Philosophers provide resources about implicit biases and strategies for overcoming them. Although none of the classic experiments on implicit bias (for example, gathering data from job application callbacks) have been re-run on the philosopher population, the Feminist Philosophers suggest it is reasonable to assume philosophers are not immune to implicit bias, which means, like we find elsewhere, implicit bias likely affects hiring.
The series is addressed to those hiring in philosophy. But these things are relevant to people who are not hiring, too. Much of the work on implicit bias discusses how one judges oneself, one’s colleagues, one’s students, or people one meets in daily life. Thus, the resources and strategies may be beneficial to those on admissions committees, grant/award committees, those interested in improving departmental or campus culture, and those teaching philosophy, as professors or as TAs. Plus, thinking about implicit bias is just plain old philosophically interesting!
The first piece in the series, which discusses some evidence of implicit bias and how bias affects hiring among well-intentioned people with, perhaps, conscious egalitarian beliefs, is here. The second piece, on some strategies for overcoming bias, is here.
JJ of Feminist Philosophers, who often posts interesting things in areas of cognitive science/philosophy of psychology, discusses a theory of mind into which implicit biases fit and according to which, “[H]aving implicit biases is not like having a dark stain on one’s soul and it does not mean that somehow one is unusually clueless. Rather, it is just one of many quick and unconscious ways one copes with a very complex world. What makes them a concern are their effects.” Some of the worrisome effects are those that are documented in studies where, for instance, African American job candidates get fewer callbacks than equally or lesser qualified white job candidates even when HR departments report they’d be thrilled to snag well-qualified minority candidates.
If you have suggestions about good hiring practices, strategies for overcoming bias, resources on implicit bias, philosophical thoughts about bias (e.g., whether an unconscious bias counts as a belief or not) or similar things, let us know here at the FSPB, or drop a line at Feminist Philosophers! And be sure to check Feminist Philosophers for future posts on implicit bias.