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nikipedia's avatar

All other things being equal, would you support some amount of affirmative action?

Asked by nikipedia (27692points) April 27th, 2011

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in the sciences at the professor level. We are currently hiring a new tenure-track faculty member for my department (neurobiology), and it got me thinking about two scenarios:

(1) Suppose two candidates were, for all intents and purposes, equally well-qualified. One is male and one is female. Would it be acceptable to pick the female one specifically because she’s female?

(2) Suppose research showed that women were better mentors, and they had more successful and satisfied students. Would you consider this an acceptable reason to choose a slightly less qualified female over a more qualified male?

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16 Answers

josie's avatar

As soon as one abandons any sort of objective means of establishing “qualifications” it gets down to whom you know. At that point, somebody will make a politically acceptable argument to justify their choice for any position, male or female.

bkcunningham's avatar

(1) No
(2) Qualified in what way? That is the question I’d ask if I were on the hiring committee. I’d go for the best qualified candidate, bearing certain circumstances in mind.

Blackberry's avatar

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and realize that there are people who have skills, but less opportunity. Everyone, regardless of color or gender, needs a break or a chance to prove themselves. So, yes to one and two.

bkcunningham's avatar

Regardless of color or gender, everyone needs a break or a chance to prove themselves. Word
That is where one upmanship comes in.

SuperMouse's avatar

If it comes down to two equally qualified people there has to be some way to make the choice. Basing the decision to hire a woman because women are so underrepresented in the sciences is a valid choice. As for scenario number two, I would argue that the ability to successfully mentor students to help them do better in school is an excellent qualification in its own right and could very easily justify the choice to hire a woman.

filmfann's avatar

Q: All other things being equal, would you support some amount of affirmative action?

A: If all things were equal, it would not be necessary.
It ain’t, so it is.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t think there are ever two people absolutely equally qualified, one would have to have more experience or higher grade point average or something.

The one who is the best should have the job. Women or minorities do themselves no favors by trying to obtain special treatment, end of story in my book!

GQ, very interesting and thought provoking.

JLeslie's avatar

I kind of feel affirmative action should be on its way out. I really felt very strongly about this 10 years ago, although moving to the south I wonder if I am right.

In your two scenerios my answer is, those are close calls, and probably rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee would make the decision. I don’t think I am in favor of giving it to the woman, just because she is a woman. Actually, scenerio number two I would favor the good mentor, but not based on gender.

Winters's avatar


Affirmative action was a good idea to get the right step forward towards equality, but now things really need to be based on individual performance and potential, not gender nor race.

weeveeship's avatar

Not saying yes or no, but I like this quote

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-Martin Luther King Jr.,

Winters's avatar

Yeah, he says that to the public and then turns around and beats his wife.

weeveeship's avatar

SCOTUS case showing lots of different views on affirmative action.

bob_'s avatar

This Mexican man votes nay and nay.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I do not support affirmative action. It has served its purpose and there are now laws in place to protect against unfair hiring practices. I do realize this is not perfect yet, but I would rather have a professor, doctor, whatever who was the best qualified rather than one who got the job because of affirmative action.

1) If two people are equally qualified, there has to be someway of choosing. When choosing between two genders, choosing the female because she may bring a different perspective or offer more opportunity for the students to see a woman in this field exhibit (IMHO) valid reasons for hiring the female instead of the male based upon gender. If two men or two women were equally qualified, how would you decide? Most probably the decision would be based upon what their particular personality or personal history could bring to the school and students.

2) Just because this maybe statistically true, it does not mean it is true for that particular woman. However, if mentoring is important to the position and she has mentoring skills as demonstrated in her resume and he does not, that would be a valid reason for hiring a slightly less professionally or academically qualified female.

roundsquare's avatar

1) I agree with @optimisticpessimist but the situation is very unrealistic. In any event, I’m not sure hiring a woman because she is a woman is the best way to promote equality. For one, its insulting to women. Second, there are probably better ways to do things (encourage more girls to go into science, etc…).

2) First of all, the ability to mentor is a valid skill, so that should be considered separate from other skills. If you can find a way to determine which individual will be a better mentor, thats the best. That might be unrealistic in an interview though so if you have to fall back on statistics… I suppose you have no choice.

sinscriven's avatar

1) No. It’s patronizing to women because it assumes they need a handicap to be competitive, and it’s sexist in punishing men for having penises. There are other ways to tiebreak equally qualified applicants that have nothing to do with gender.

2) Again an issue that does not need to take gender into account at all. It’s an issue of highly qualified/less effective vs. less qualified/more effective, and can be judged based solely on that.

If there is to be a level playing field, you can’t give people handicap advantages.

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