Wielding Data, Women Force a Reckoning Over Bias in the Economics Field – The New York Times

Look forward to any comments by Canadian economists on this good example of gender-based analysis:

It is not difficult to find an all-male panel at the annual January mega-gathering of American economists. They are as common as PowerPoint presentations and pie charts. One such panel this year met to sleepily critique President Trump’s economic policies, but it was overshadowed by another panel, two ballrooms away, that jolted a profession that prides itself on cool rationality.

That panel on Friday was stocked with women, each of whom presented new research that revealed a systemic bias in economics and presaged a move by the field’s leaders to promise to address some of those issues.

Paper after paper presented at the American Economic Association panel showed a pattern of gender discrimination, beginning with barriers women face in choosing to study economics and extending through the life cycle of their careers, including securing job opportunities, writing research papers, gaining access to top publications and earning proper credit for published work.

Economics departments have gradually increased their share of female faculty members over the past 20 years. But only one in five tenure-track economics professors is a woman, according to the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession.

In many parts of the profession, gender progress stagnated over the last decade. About one in three new economics doctoral students was a woman in 2016, and fewer than one in three assistant professors were women. In both of those cases, the share of women was essentially unchanged from 2006.

A Shrinking Pipeline of Women in Economics Departments

A 2016 survey of 126 economics departments with doctoral programs found that while the female share of doctoral students and faculty has increased significantly since the 1970s, the representation of women drops at each step on the track to full, tenured professor.

The focus on gender bias in economics began simmering in August, when Alice Wu, an economist from the University of California, Berkeley, detailed in a research paper how the website Economics Job Market Rumors, a much-read, anonymous job-rumor forum and message board for economists, had become a hotbed of harassment, with female economists frequently described in often sexual and crude terms.

But the barriers women face in this long male-dominated field extend well beyond online harassment. Women must be significantly clearer writers than men to have their work accepted to major economic journals, according to a paper, titled “Publishing While Female,” that Erin Hengel, a University of Liverpool economist, reported at the conference. They must also wait longer to have their papers published in journals.

The bias creeps into the most popular introductory economics textbooks, which refer to men four times as often as they do women. Ninety percent of the economists cited in those textbooks are men, Betsey Stevenson, a University of Michigan economist, told the panel on gender issues in economics, based on a paper she is about to complete. When women are mentioned in textbook examples, they are more likely to be shopping or cleaning than running a company or making public policy.

Missing From Economics Textbooks: Women

An analysis presented at a January gathering of economists found that men make up the vast majority of people mentioned in economics textbooks, even dominating references to business leaders and policy makers.

The reckoning in economics comes amid a larger national examination of bias and abuse toward women in the work force, across industries including entertainment, manufacturing and journalism. But the existence of bias in the field of economics is rattling a profession that, at its core, functions through objective interpretation and extrapolation of data, statistics and evidence.

Leaders of the American Economic Association announced on Friday night that they would begin to address bias concerns more seriously, by setting up an alternative to the online jobs site and drafting a code of conduct for economists. But many economists said that those steps were late, and that they left much work to be done to ensure fairness for women in the field, where the rate of entry for women lags that of math, engineering and other hard sciences.

“The time had come for the organization to make a more proactive statement,” said Peter L. Rousseau, the chairman of the economics department at Vanderbilt University and the association’s secretary-treasurer. He cast the decision as responding to evidence in a way that was natural for the profession. “Economists, I think, are just very objective in their view of the world,” he said.

In interviews during and after the conference, prominent women in economics described how their profession throws barriers in their professional paths, and they criticized the male-dominated leadership in the field for moving slowly to tear those barriers down.

“I don’t think it’s because we don’t know what is implicit bias. We know,” said Rhonda Sharpe, the president of the National Economics Association, which was founded to promote the professional development of minorities in the field. “It’s whether we stand up and call it out, and usually we don’t.”

The annual conference brings together several economics groups, the largest among them the American Economics Association. Before this year’s conference, two economists — Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Michael Reich, a labor economist at Berkeley — circulated a petition calling on the association’s leaders to establish their own job market website where comments would be moderated and sexist postings blocked. The petition was eventually signed by more than 1,000 economists, and, on Friday, the association agreed to start its own job site.

“I see this as a big deal,” Abigail Wozniak, an economist at Notre Dame who was active in advocating a new job market site, said by email. “I think the reaction of the A.E.A. was driven in part by a recognition that economics can become more inclusive on a number of dimensions.”

Janet Currie, chairwoman of Princeton’s economics department, and Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard, pointed to a recent study that found that women get significantly less credit than men when they co-write papers with them, as reflected in the way the paper affects their chances of receiving tenure.

When the co-author is a man, “people don’t say anything about it, it’s just normal,” Ms. Currie said. “When it’s a woman, it’s: ‘Oh, everything she wrote is with co-authors. How do we know she’s any good?’”

She said the behavior, detailed in a paper by Heather Sarsons of Harvard, was related to a more widespread phenomenon. “There are lots of examples of when a woman says something, no one pays attention,” Ms. Currie said. “A man says the same thing, everyone says it’s great. It happens a lot.”

Sarah A. Jacobson, an environmental economist at Williams College, recounted an experience during graduate school that she said was indicative: A well-respected female economist delivering a talk at her department was repeatedly interrupted by male economists when trying to answer questions from the audience.

“In the middle of the seminar, a male economist I respect turned around — they’re in the audience — and they were explaining the answer for her, on her behalf,” Ms. Jacobson said.

“You see it all the time,” she added. “You occasionally see it if a male is presenting. You see it pretty often if a woman is presenting.”

Kate Bahn, an economist at the Center for American Progress, said that when she was in graduate school, she was told she was not invited to a regular poker game with her male cohorts, because it included “locker-room talk.” She also noticed that her specialties, labor and gender economics, were viewed as more associated with women, and thus less rigorous.

“What there really needs to be is a broader cultural change,” she said.

Ms. Hengel, the University of Liverpool economist, used readability tests to conclude that papers written by female economists are on average up to 6 percent better-written than those of men, and that those by women languish in peer review a half-year longer than those of men.

She became interested in the topic as a graduate student, she said, when watching a male friend teach a course and noticing the difference in how students reacted to him compared with how they reacted to her.

“When you’re teaching something, when you really nail an explanation, the front row just lights up,” she said. But she watched her friend’s class light up, “even though he wasn’t nailing it.”

Ms. Sharpe, of the N.E.A., said the bias against African-American women, who continue to make up a tiny slice of the economics profession, was especially pronounced. Ms. Sharpe’s data show that only 52 black women earned economics doctorates between 2006 and 2015, a slight increase from the 46 who earned them in the previous decade.

“All of this conversation about misogyny with women is not having a conversation about black women,” she said. “I think of us as the incredible invisible woman.”

Ms. Stevenson’s analysis of the seven leading introductory economics textbooks found that female economists were all but invisible. More than 90 percent of real-world business leaders mentioned in the books were men. Three in five fictional characters whom the authors invented to illustrate a concept were men.

Only 6 percent of the policymakers referred to in the textbooks were women. One woman accounted for more than half of those references: Janet L. Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, who is about to be replaced by a man.

via Wielding Data, Women Force a Reckoning Over Bias in the Economics Field – The New York Times


ICYMI: How Ottawa is trying to breathe new life into a 22-year-old policy for gender equality

In addition to gender, policy making needs to consider the impact on other employment equity groups (visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities) as well as other groups such as LGBTQ. The annual report on immigration provides one of the better examples of GBA but is mainly descriptive (2017 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration – Canada.ca):

Twenty-two years ago, the Canadian government made a commitment. Every piece of legislation, and all new policies and programs, would be treated to what is called a “gender-based analysis.”

This bureaucratic procedure, while arcane, was meant to do something momentous: bring the experience of women to the nerve-centre of political decision-making. A government that does gender-based analyses is a government with gender equality on the brain.

But that’s not what happened — at least not immediately.

Consider the current Liberal government’s national housing strategy, which was unwrapped in Toronto in November. In a different world, Colette Prévost of the YWCA wouldn’t have worried that the politicians crafting the policy could be blind to the gender dynamics it grapples with. She wouldn’t have felt compelled to organize a lobbying blitz in the weeks before the policy was unveiled, to make sure it dealt with the particulars of homelessness for women and girls, whom she said often flee violence and are uncounted by shelter systems across the country.

And though she was ultimately happy with what the Liberals came up with — including a pledge to put 25 per cent of the billions of dollars in new spending to initiatives for women and girls — her experience in recent years underscored her skepticism towards the gender-based commitments of government.

As she put it, “We have to do better than what has been done in the last several years.”

What she meant, of course, is what has not been done. In 2016, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a report that found the government’s gender-based analyses — GBAs for short — were “not always complete, nor of consistent quality.” Speaking at a committee about the report a few weeks later, Meena Ballantyne, head of Status of Women Canada, said the work of tracking and ensuring GBAs are done better is “just beginning.”

In other words, despite two-decades of supposed adherence to the completion of GBAs, the current administration under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still trying to breathe new life into this longstanding promise.

“It’s been this 20-year, episodic effort,” said Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice, an organization devoted to bringing more women into politics. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

One can wonder what would be different today, had this pledge been taken more seriously since 1995. Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, pointed to recent harassment scandals among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and at the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency.

She suggested such controversies could be avoided with better government direction on gender equality — something that would ostensibly be achieved with good GBAs.

Even initiatives with no obvious gender dimension can yield eye-opening results from a GBA, such as resource projects, Porteous said. For instance, a new industrial site, like a fresh mine or a refurbished shipping terminal, can bring large numbers of male workers into small communities, which can increase the likelihood of violence against women, she said. If such projects get a GBA, then government can plan for this and increase funding to local shelters and support programs when such resource projects are approved, she said.

“The only thing that can happen in relation to doing a deeper gender-based analysis is good outcomes,” she said. “Women and children and whole families will only be safer.”

The Trudeau Liberals say they’re beefing up GBAs and have placed gender equality at the centre of the government’s thinking. Since the auditor general’s 2016 report on GBA inconsistencies, the government has made GBAs mandatory for all memoranda to cabinet — policy proposals that need cabinet approval — and submissions for spending to the Treasury Board.

There is also a new survey for deputy ministers on the implementation of GBAs, which have been expanded to include the consideration of policy impacts on people with various gender, racial and sexual identities.

Status of Women Canada, meanwhile, is “updating training tools and materials” relating to GBAs, and providing advice on proposals such as the housing strategy defence policy review and innovation agenda, said agency spokesperson Léonie Roux.

The finance department also brought GBAs to the fore last spring when it published a “gender statement” in the 2017 budget. Officials from Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office said this month that the department is working to make gender issues a major plank of the 2018 spending plan. In an emailed statement, Morneau said the department has increased funding for its own GBAs and raised the idea of budgets including gender statements with provincial finance ministers in December.

As Finance Department spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet explained, each federal budget proposal is now expected to go through a GBA, which are reviewed by department officials and then passed along to the minister.

There are exemptions to this requirement, though, including if the initiative is deemed to be urgent or a matter of “macroeconomic policy” — meaning if it applies in a general sense.

But Sweet couldn’t say how often policies are exempted from GBAs because the finance department doesn’t track how often the exemptions are used. So while GBAs are being emphasized as important by the Trudeau government, the extent of their implementation remains unclear.

On top of that, it’s difficult to say whether they’re having an impact on policy. A senior official from the finance department who spoke to the Star on background could not provide a single example of how a GBA had changed a spending plan or federal policy.

For Michele Austin, who was chief of staff to the Status of Women Minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, this underlines how GBAs are little more than window dressing. Austin, who is now a senior advisor at Summa Strategies in Ottawa, said she has “absolutely no clue” what impact GBAs have on government policy.

“I fully applaud the Liberal government for raising the profile of gender — full top marks,” she said. “At the same time, I would note that it costs nothing to do that and often changes very little.”

Indeed, since the inaugural and unprecedented act of including an equal number of men and women in the federal cabinet, the current Liberal government has placed gender in the top rung of its priorities.

Judy Sgro, a long-time Liberal MP from Toronto who served in Paul Martin’s cabinet, said that GBAs are an important part of the government’s overall stance on gender equality. She pointed to the Canada Child Benefit, one of the government’s most frequently championed policies, as an initiative that was designed to have a big impact on women.

According to the 2017 budget’s gender statement, roughly 90 per cent of people who receive the maximum child benefit of $9,000-per-year are single mothers.

Sgro blamed the Harper Conservatives for delaying deeper GBA implementation during their decade in power, having been chair of the Status of Women committee in 2006 when she recommended that the analyses become mandatory for all government departments.

“The leadership (that is now) coming out of the prime minister’s office is that these issue matter, and he wants to see these things put into action,” Sgro said.

“It’s a long time coming.”

The YWCA, at least, is applauding Ottawa’s gender focus. On the housing strategy, Prévost said the government struck the right balance, with a significant orientation toward how to improve the housing situation for women and girls.

“I have to say I was almost surprised,” she laughed, adding that she will be “anxiously monitoring” how the spending is actually rolled out.

“We’re hopefully optimistic,” she said. “I think this is a very good first step.”

via How Ottawa is trying to breathe new life into a 22-year-old policy for gender equality | Toronto Star

Order of Canada Appointments Update

For those that are interested, with the December 2017 Order announcements, I was able to update a number of  the key charts from my earlier The Order of Canada and diversity.

The first charts looks at the overall diversity of 953 appointments, broken down by year, for the last five years. The most notable change is the large jump in the number of Indigenous peoples appointed to the order in 2017 (particularly the December appointments).

Source: Order of Canada announcements

The second chart shows the provincial breakdown compared to the population shares, showing the historic pattern of over-representation of Ontario.

The third chart breaks down appointments by rank and group, showing slight relative over-representation at the officer level for visible minorities and Indigenous peoples compared to the ‘feeder’ group member level.

Source: Order of Canada announcements

While as noted in the article, there are a number of factors that make Order of Canada appointments an imperfect indicator for diversity and inclusion (i.e., nomination driven process, regional balance considerations etc) it nevertheless provides a sense of how the contributions of three employment equity groups are publicly recognized.

ICYMI: How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada

Good overview article by Aaron Wherry of CBC on diversity in government, both public service and political appointments. Some of my analysis quoted and used:

Campaigning in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised to “build a government as diverse as Canada.”

That job might’ve seemed nearly done on Day One. Of the 31 ministers sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015, 15 were, famously, women. Five ministers were visible minorities and two others were Indigenous.

A cabinet ratio of 48.3 per cent women, 16.1 per cent visible minorities and 6.5 per cent Indigenous comes close to matching a Canadian population that was 50.9 per cent women, 22.3 per cent visible minorities and 4.9 per cent Indigenous.

But a prime minister and his government are responsible for far more than a few dozen cabinet positions. The cabinet oversees more than 1,500 appointments, including chairs and members of boards, tribunals and Crown corporations, deputy ministers, heads of foreign missions, judges and senators.

On that much larger scale, progress has been made, but the ideal of a government that looks like Canada is still a ways off.

A new appointment process

When the government was sworn in, just 34 per cent of federal appointees were women, 4.5 per cent were visible minorities and 3.9 per cent were Indigenous.

Two years later, according to data from the Privy Council Office, 42.8 per cent of appointees are women, 5.6 per cent are visible minorities and 5.8 per cent are Indigenous.

In February 2016, the Liberal government announced a new appointment process for boards, agencies, tribunals, officers of Parliament and Crown corporations. It specified diversity as a goal and opened applications to the public.

According to the Privy Council Office, 429 appointments were made via that process through Dec. 5, 2017. Of those, 56.6 per cent were women, 11.2 per cent were visible minorities and 9.6 per cent were Indigenous.

A total of 579 appointments — including deputy ministers, heads of mission and appointments for which requirements are specified in law — were made through existing processes. Of those, 43.7 per cent were women, 3.8 per cent were visible minorities and 5.2 per cent were Indigenous.

“Mr. Trudeau has been more intentional on these issues than his predecessors and has made great progress in opening up the process. He has also clearly made great strides on gender,” says Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute.

But, says Cukier, the government’s efforts toward transparency and equal opportunity need to be accompanied by “proactive outreach and recruitment as well as retention strategies” in order to “address some of the barriers historically disadvantaged groups have faced.”

Eleanore Catenaro, press secretary for the prime minister, says, “Our aim is to identify high-quality candidates who will help to achieve gender parity and truly reflect Canada’s diversity.”

She says, “We know there is more work to do to achieve these goals, and we continue to do outreach to potential qualified and diverse candidates to encourage them to apply.”

Rigorous reporting of demographic data across federal appointments could presumably drive change — or at least give the  government something to answer for — but most of these numbers have not been made public.

“It is crucial that the government tracks, measures and reports on diversity in all areas,” says Sen. Ratna Omidvar, the founding director of Ryerson’s Global Diversity Exchange. “By doing so, we are able to see where we are making progress and where we need to improve.”

Beneath those top-line numbers, there are a few other points of reference.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the government made 87 heads-of-mission appointments — ambassadors, consul generals and official representatives — in 2016 and 2017. Forty-eight per cent were women and 13.8 per cent were visible minorities. There were no Indigenous appointees.

Senate and court appointments

Andrew Griffith, a former official at the department of citizenship and immigration who has been tracking diversity in federal appointments, has counted 18 women, six visible minorities and three Indigenous Canadians among Trudeau’s 31 Senate appointments.

As a result of an initiative to track judicial appointees, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs has published a tally of court appointments from Oct. 21, 2016 through Oct. 27, 2017. Between those dates, 74 judicial appointments were made, of whom 50 per cent were women, 12.1 per cent were visible minorities and four per cent were Indigenous.

But that data also suggested the pool of candidates was limited: of the 997 applications received, just 97 applicants identified as a visible minority and 36 were Indigenous.​

At some point, it might be charged that diversity is being inappropriately prioritized ahead of merit or competency — as Kevin O’Leary once alleged of Trudeau’s cabinet. But such suggestions assume that achieving diversity must come at the expense of merit.

Ideally, diversity would also amount to more than a numerical value.

3 benefits of diversity

Griffith, for instance, suggests three potential benefits of diversity in appointments: that it allows Canadians to see themselves represented in government institutions, that it brings a range of experience and perspectives to government policies and operations and that it reduces the risk of inappropriate policies (for example, an RCMP interview guide that asked asylum-seekers about their religious practices).

“It has been proven over and over that more diversity in the workplace leads to better outcomes,” says Omidvar, who is also pushing to tighten the standards included in a proposed government bill that would require corporate boards to report on diversity.

But the most profound impact could conceivably relate to Griffith’s first potential benefit. A nation that values diversity and pluralism might want its institutions to reflect those principles — and institutions that reflect those principles might advance the building of a multicultural society.

“It normalizes diversity,” Omidvar said of public appointments. “At this point, diversity is still sort of not the norm, which is why we focus on it.”

via How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada – Politics – CBC News

American Bar Association is ‘greatly concerned’ about low percentage of female and minority US attorney candidates

Consistent with the lack of diversity among Cabinet and other appointees:

ABA President Hilarie Bass has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that asks him to urge senators proposing U.S. attorney candidates to take diversity into account.

The letter (PDF) is dated Nov. 30, nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump announced a ninth wave of U.S. attorney nominations. Of the 57 U.S. attorney candidates announced so far by the Trump administration, one was black and three were women, Newsweek reported.

The letter acknowledges that senators representing states in which U.S. attorneys are to serve have long had the prerogative to make recommendations for appointments. But the attorney general who will oversee the U.S. attorneys “also has influence over the process,” the letter says.

“We are greatly concerned that a lower percentage of women and people of color have been appointed to these positions in the past year than in previous administrations—both Democrat and Republican,” the letter says. “That is why I am writing you to ask that you take an active role to help ensure that the cadre of U.S. attorneys appointed in this administration is more reflective of the legal profession and our society.”

The letter says equal numbers of men and women are graduating from law school, but the profession is 65 percent male and 85 percent white. Progress in achieving diversity “has been uneven, slow, and concentrated in low- and mid-level legal jobs,” Bass writes. “Racial and ethnic groups, sexual and gender minorities, and lawyers with disabilities continue to be underrepresented and face hurdles to advancement throughout the profession.”

“Our failure to achieve a diverse justice system despite the ever-increasing multiculturalism of our nation invites a crisis in public confidence,” the letter says. “A justice system that is not representative of the diverse community it serves risks losing its legitimacy in the eyes of those who come before it.”

via ABA is ‘greatly concerned’ about low percentage of female and minority US attorney candidates

Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

Another in the series of NPR polls on discrimination, with the usual richness of data including the “intersectionality” between race and gender:

Discrimination in the form of sexual harassment has been in the headlines for weeks now, but new poll results being released by NPR show that other forms of discrimination against women are also pervasive in American society. The poll is a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

For example, a majority (56 percent) of women believe that where they live, women are paid less than men for equal work. And roughly a third (31 percent) say they’ve been discriminated against when applying for jobs because they are women.

Overall, 68 percent of women believe that there is discrimination against women in America today.

The chart below shows that the experience of gender discrimination is not monolithic — women in each racial, ethnic and identity group have particular problems in employment, education, housing and interactions with law enforcement, the courts and government. Several groups of women also avoid seeking health care out of concern they will face discrimination.

On nearly every measure, Native American women had the highest levels of discrimination based on gender. In our series, “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America,” we have highlighted several of these situations, including unfair treatment by the courts in majority-Native areas.

NPR will livestream an expert panel discussion on Native American issues at noon ET on Tuesday.

One of the patterns that emerged from the poll and our subsequent reporting is a gulf between high- and low-income areas when it comes to experiences of discrimination. This gap is also apparent in the gender data crunched by our Harvard team. The graph below illustrates the stark differences based on income when it comes to several everyday experiences people have in their own neighborhoods.

A snapshot in time

Our poll — which was fielded from late January to early April — before this fall’s intense news coverage of sexual harassment — also captures what women were feeling and experiencing before the recent scandals.

We found that 37 percent women overall reported they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women at some point in their lives. But there was a wide range of responses based on age, with 60 percent of those 18 to 29 years old saying they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women, versus 17 percent of women 65 and over.

“Our survey highlights the extraordinary level of personal experiences of harassment facing women today, as reflected in the news,” says Robert Blendon, co-director of the poll and professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. “These national conversations may have affected how people viewed or responded to their own experiences in our survey, or their willingness to disclose these experiences.”

Indeed, a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University, asking specifically about sexual assault, suggests women may be more comfortable reporting such experiences now that more women are coming forward and revealing past abuse. (Our poll differs from Quinnipiac in that we asked a broader question: “Do you believe that you or someone in your family who is also a female has experience sexual harassment because you or they are female?”)

The survey from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard Chan School was conducted from Jan. 26 to April 9, 2017 among a nationally representative probability-based telephone (cell and landline) sample of 1,596 women. The margin of error for total female respondents is 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. Complete methodological information is in the full poll report.

via Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

Facebook COO warns women that male executives may stop hiring them because of sexual harassment scandals

Header misleading – Sandberg’s comments quite different:

The chief operating officer of Facebook, has warned of a potential backlash against women in the workplace following recent high-profile sexual harassment scandals. Sheryl Sandberg, one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world, said she had already heard “rumblings” that male leaders of companies may be increasingly reluctant to hire female employees because they feared their firms becoming involved in disputes.

Sandberg urged companies to put policies in place on how to handle allegations. Writing on Facebook, she said: “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women.’ Actually, this is why you should.” She added: “The percentage of men who will be afraid to be alone with a female colleague has to be sky high right now.

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back.”

Outlining her own experiences Sandberg, 48, said she had suffered sexual harassment in the past, and continued to do so despite the power she now wields. On one occasion, early in her career, a man at a conference came to her hotel room late at night and banged on her door until she had to call security. She said: “Like almost every woman – and some men – I know, I have experienced sexual harassment in the form of unwanted sexual advances in the course of doing my job.

“A hand on my leg under the table at a meeting. Married men – all decades older than I – offering ‘career advice’ and then suggesting that they could share it with me alone late at night.”

She made clear that none of the harassment was by men she had worked for, and all of her male bosses during her career had been “not just respectful, but deeply supportive”. But in each case the harasser had more “power” than her.

A hand on my leg under the table at a meeting. Married men – all decades older than I – offering ‘career advice’ and then suggesting that they could share it with me alone late at night

She said: “That’s not a coincidence. It’s why they felt free to cross that line.

“As I’ve become more senior, and gained more power, these moments have occurred less and less frequently. But they still happen every so often.”

Sandberg said the current movement against sexual harassment was a “watershed moment” and an “opportunity that must not be lost.”

via Facebook COO warns women that male executives may stop hiring them because of sexual harassment scandals | National Post

Sensitivity framing is crucial in the classroom

Sensible suggestion on greater awareness and appropriate framing by Mitu Sengupta of Ryerson University. But students also need to learn how to speak up; if not in the class, then after with the instructor, prior to filing a complaint:

The panel convened to respond to this complaint shouldn’t have rebuked Ms. Shepherd for failing to voice disagreement with Jordan Peterson, the professor in the controversial video. She was under no obligation to do so. What the panel might have done was to simply advise her to show more regard in the future for students who might feel distressed by any aspect of a difficult class discussion. This might involve nothing more than uttering a few short sentences at the start of the session, such as, “For some of you, our discussion today might feel very personal. If you feel upset by the conversation, please come speak to me after class.”

I do this quite often, taking my cue from the eminent Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, who was my favourite undergraduate professor at McGill University more than 20 years ago. I remember we were discussing colonialism, and Prof. Taylor read out the following excerpt from British historian Thomas Macaulay’s Minute on Indian Education: “A single shelf of a good European library [is] worth the whole native literature of India.” Prior to doing so, however, Mr. Taylor went red in the face and said, “This is embarrassing and a horrible thing to repeat.”

I was the only Indian in the room. I remember feeling acknowledged, grateful. It wasn’t much, but Prof. Taylor had given me relief from the weight of Macaulay’s scathing, racist remarks. I felt better able to listen and more willing to engage.

We are taught to have the highest regard for free speech, the cornerstone of our liberal democracy. We receive less instruction, however, in understanding that free speech is still an ideal, not a reality.

We should recognize speech is usually more “free” for some people than for others. This may not be due to any tangible constraint, and may even occur despite our best efforts. In my classes, for example, I try to provide a supportive environment for everyone, but find that men consistently speak up more often than women. This is unsurprising. People who command social power – derived from their class, race or gender – tend to have more confidence while speaking, and are better at getting themselves heard. While I’m not recommending that anyone be shut down, we do need to be wary of how the ideal of free speech plays out in practice, in our very non-ideal world that is rife with deeply rooted inequalities.

We have a problem when the ideal of free speech imposes a heavier burden on some more than others – women, people of colour, sexual minorities – who constantly find themselves on the defensive in discussions about class, race and gender. This can be an extraordinarily taxing, alienating experience, and sometimes the safest option for the person involved is to mentally exit the conversation. This, of course, is terrible for the “debate” in progress, not least because you do not, in fact, get to hear “the other side.”

To me, the power and privilege of being an educator comes with the special responsibility of keeping an eye on the well-being of students who are likely to find certain conversations especially stressful, and taking a few extra steps to ensure that they feel recognized and included. Far from snuffing out debate, doing so enriches the conversations that follow.

I think that our younger generations actually have a better grasp of the complexities and challenges surrounding free speech than do our older generations. I remain astounded by the compassion with which my students treat each other. They are creating a kinder and more open learning environment than the one that was thrust upon me during my undergraduate years. And, if students are pushing back against any perceived insensitivity on part of their instructors, I applaud them for taking ownership of their education, and for having the courage to actively protect their self-esteem.

via Sensitivity framing is crucial in the classroom – The Globe and Mail

Women need to play a role in ‘restoring’ Saudi Islam: Sheema Khan

Sheema Khan challenges the patriarchy (and the Friedman puff piece on MBS):

In a wide-ranging interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. “MBS”) discussed, among other topics, the recent anti-corruption drive and liberalization of Saudi society. Call it a kinder, gentler form of authoritarianism – with a progressive touch. Notably, MBS refused to address his country’s interference in Lebanese politics or its unconscionable scorched-earth policy in Yemen.

Nonetheless, Mr. Friedman was effusive of MBS’s plans to veer Saudi Islam to a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.” The Prince calls it a “restoration” of the faith to its origins – namely the Prophetic period in the early 7th century. This has the potential to reverse the puritanical strain (Wahhabism) currently at the heart of Saudi society, where, for example, a woman is under male guardianship from cradle to grave.

The late Sunni scholar Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa chronicled in his comprehensive study of the Koran and authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim women were far more engaged in society during the Prophetic era. They had more rights and opportunities to build a vibrant society, in partnership with men, than many contemporary Muslim cultures (including Saudi Arabia).

Mr. Friedman believes this “restoration” project “would drive moderation across the Muslim world.” In fact, most of the Muslim world has soundly rejected Wahhabism. Yet, the deeply entrenched patriarchy of Saudi society finds parallels in many Muslim countries.

While MBS has promised to grant Saudi women more liberty, his top-down approach towards “restoration” of Islam raises a number of questions.

Will the man who allowed women to drive, allow them a place to drive the “restoration” as well? Or will it be a vehicle steered exclusively by men, with women seated as passengers, while men alone navigate women’s role in society?

Women’s voices and perspectives will be essential if there is to be any meaningful reform of contemporary Muslim cultural practices.

In her groundbreaking book “Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition,” UBC Professor Ayesha Chaudhry makes it abundantly clear that the “Islamic tradition” – beginning a few centuries after the Prophetic era to the precolonial era – reflected worldwide patriarchy of the times. The hierarchical paradigm was unambiguous: God (or Allah) at the top, followed by men below, then by women subordinate to men and finally slaves below women. This view shaped pretty much all religious discourse – from Koranic exegesis to Islamic jurisprudence.

Ismail ibn Kathir, a 14th-century Sunni scholar whose works still carry great influence, was unequivocal. “The man is better than the woman,” he wrote in his authoritative commentary of the Quran. By no means was he alone. Prof. Chaudry’s meticulous research shows how devastating this paradigm was in relation to domestic violence. All Sunni scholars and jurists advocated beating a “recalcitrant” wife – specifying when, how often, where on her body, with either one’s fists or a sturdy object, and so on. The Hanafi school of jurisprudence was the harshest, allowing a husband the leeway to beat his wife as he saw fit, so long as he didn’t kill her. The book is a painful read, but should be read by those interested in reform.

The problem is that much of this patriarchal Islamic tradition – developed by male medieval scholars – is still taught uncritically in many Muslim seminaries and reflected in a number of Muslim cultures, where male privilege reigns.

Muslims must take a critical look at this tradition in light of contemporary norms. Like Abo Shaqqa, Prof. Chaudhry points out the obvious: Domestic violence advocates were/are unable to reconcile the fact that the model for all Muslims, Prophet Muhammad, never once raised his hand. He rebuked those who did.

The postcolonial period had ushered in a more egalitarian view, in which men and women are on the same moral plane before God. However, this approach has had uneven acceptance. Very rarely will men give up their privileged position to be on equal footing with women.

Yet Muslim women still insist on gender justice. Contemporary female Muslim scholars, such as Prof. Chaudhry, Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas, Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Asma Lamrabet, have challenged patriarchal interpretations of the Koran, thereby providing women with exegetical tools to confront male privilege rooted in theology.

Elsewhere, Muslim women in India are challenging the patriarchy entrenched in Muslim institutions, through education and legal reform. There are now female judges to solemnize marriages and adjudicate divorces, thereby restoring balance to proceedings which were exclusively presided by men.

If MBS really wants to return to a “moderate, balanced” Islam, he must include the perspectives of women on equal footing.

Anything less will be a whitewash.

via Women need to play a role in ‘restoring’ Saudi Islam – The Globe and Mail

The Jobs You’re Most Likely to Inherit From Your Mother and Father – The New York Times

Interesting analysis:

When children choose what to be when they grow up, they often follow in their fathers’ footsteps. But mothers are powerful, too.

Working sons of working fathers are, on average, 2.7 times as likely as the rest of the population to have the same job but only two times as likely to have the same job as their working mothers, according to an analysis by The New York Times, one of the first to look at mothers and daughters in addition to fathers and sons. Daughters are 1.8 times as likely to have the same job as their mothers and 1.7 times as likely to have the same job as their fathers.

How often a man has the same job as his:
Father 2.7× as likely
Mother 2.0× as likely
How often a woman has the same job as her:
Father 1.7× as likely
Mother 1.8× as likely

Try these jobs to start: Bartenders, cashiers, elementary and middle school teachers, lawyers, doctors and structural iron and steel workers. Some jobs are not available due to low sample size.

The estimates, drawn from General Social Survey data between 1994 and 2016, show that mothers, despite working in lower numbers, are still influential in inspiring their children’s career choices. And the passing down of occupation and other measures of socioeconomic status seems to affect boys more than girls.

Some of the jobs most likely to be passed down include steelworker, legislator, baker, lawyer and doctor. Children are less likely to follow their parents’ careers if they are middle managers or clerical or service workers. These findings broadly align with previous research.

“It’s not just a matter of education or what your parents can buy — there’s something about the occupations themselves,” said Kim Weeden, chairwoman of the sociology department at Cornell University, who is researching the topic with April Sutton, also a sociologist.

It’s another example of the powerful role family circumstances play in shaping children’s lives. Children with unemployed parents were more likely to say they didn’t know what they wanted to do for work, they found. “There’s an inheritance of advantage but also disadvantage when you talk about occupational plans,” Ms. Weeden said.

A big factor in passing down occupations — and advantage or disadvantage — is the connections parents offer children. Children who pursue the same job as their parents often start ahead, whether through inheriting a family business, getting an internship at a parent’s company or having a parent put in a good word with a colleague.

“If people lack financial capital, they likely lack these other types of capital as well,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard. “For all of these reasons, the world is not a very fair place for some kids.”

Some fields are particularly dynastic, like Hollywood acting or politics.

…Children often pursue their parents’ jobs because of the breakfast-table effect: Family conversations influence them. They fuel interests or teach children what less commonly understood careers entail (probably one reason textile spinning and shoemaking are high on the list of jobs disproportionately passed on to children). In interviews, people who followed their parents’ career paths described it as speaking the same language.

Certain aptitudes may be inherited. Families also have their own cultures, reflected in how they value spending time — whether making things by hand, achieving academically or filling the home with art and music. People described flirtations with other careers as teenage rebellions before settling into a parent’s occupation.

How Frequently Do Daughters Share an Occupation With Their Parents?


Fishers 362x as likely
Textile machine operator 159
Medical and laboratory techs 126
Aircraft mechanics 118
Librarians 106
Printing press operators 91
Packaging machine operators 39
Electrical, electronics and electromechanical assemblers 28
Lawyers 27
Doctors 19


Military officer 281x as likely
Shoemakers 135
Metal and plastic workers 105
Dishwashers 91
Human resources managers 78
Textile machine operator 75
Textile workers 65
Textile winding and twisting machine operators 60
Factory workers, food preparation 49
Travel agents 48

…Though research has focused more on fathers, mothers have always influenced their children’s career paths, social scientists say. “What we’re learning is that both parents are quite important, and quite important for both boys and girls,” Ms. Weeden said.

In our analysis, sons are 20 times as likely to be a scientist if their mother is one. Gil Rabinovici is the son of Sarah Bacus, a cancer scientist, and Eliezer Rabinovici, a theoretical physicist. After giving up the idea of becoming the next Steven Spielberg or playing third base for the Chicago Cubs, he became a neurologist, studying memory disorders at the University of California, San Francisco.

How Frequently Do Sons Share an Occupation With Their Parents?


Textile machine operator 415x as likely
Boilermakers 275
Fishers 275
Drywall installers 136
Structural iron and steel workers 135
Door-to-door sales workers 130
Cabinetmakers 127
Prepress technicians and workers 116
Textile workers 105
Railroad conductors 94


Paralegals and legal assistants 191x as likely
Bakers 66
Credit counselors and loan officers 58
Postal service clerks 43
Clinical laboratory techs 38
Bartenders 36
Hairdressers 26
Butchers 24
Packaging machine operators 18
Child care workers 16

“I think seeing work for them growing up as a passion rather than a chore is something I’m sure had an influence on me,” he said.

The effect of his mother’s science career has been intergenerational, he said: His 9-year-old daughter spends time drawing neurons and brain schematics. “It definitely influenced how I view gender, and probably having a strong role model as a scientist influenced her,” he said.

…Yet over all, parents have less of an effect on daughters than on sons, in career and socioeconomic status more broadly, according to research.

One explanation is that previous generations of mothers had fewer job options than their daughters, so their daughters consider a broader range of jobs. Men, meanwhile, are unlikely to take jobs that haven’t typically been done by men.

Because daughters are less likely to work or earn as much, parents might invest more in sons’ careers. But more likely, researchers said, parents invest equally, and women make more career compromises because of family obligations. Especially with young children, some women “can’t do the jobs that they wanted or were trained to do by their parents,” said Melinda Morrill, an economist at North Carolina State University.

The General Social Survey analysis is not conclusive. For instance, because of the small sample size, we could not control for age, which matters when considering how women’s careers are affected by motherhood. The survey may also misclassify the dominant career of the parent. Survey respondents were asked only what their parents’ latest occupation was, so if the parent was a steelworker in the prime of his career, but now is a greeter at Walmart, the survey would classify him as a greeter. The same is true if the parent is now retired.

Also, it is impossible to isolate the influences of parents. But we know that children inherit economic standards of living from their parents, and the occupations of parents are one determinant of the American dream — whether children are better off than they were.

via The Jobs You’re Most Likely to Inherit From Your Mother and Father – The New York Times