Concrete Steps to Breaking the “Glass Ceiling” in Academic Hiring

Reposting this as prompted by a great list of suggestions over at The Fund for Theological Education blog, on “The Doctoral Diversity Deficit.” I for one, do believe there is a need for Affirmative Action when it comes to hiring in the academic setting (PhD’s, that is). The article lists the following:

1. Critical mass of faculty of color – in legitimating research “from the margins”

2. Curricular and extracurricular opportunities for mentoring and preparation – for those who may not readily benefit due to economic or social status

3. Faculty “shoulder tapping” – a greater accessibility to mentoring of minority students

But as it stands, “concrete steps to breaking the glass ceiling” – particularly in academic settings still remains an uphill battle…


The convo over @ Prof. Stackhouse’s blog “On Behalf of Diversity in Academic Hiring” has been heating up and I for one am thrilled it is taking place. I must admit however that I was somewhat disarmed when he challenged us to provide concrete steps towards progress; “particular things we can do, or particular people we should look at, etc.” Disarmed in the sense that while this has been something I’ve thought about a lot, I must confess I found myself somewhat unable to answer that question. If I may dwell on the theoretical just a bit longer I would say that the glass ceiling has to be cracked from above, engendering participation, and I think this is a theologically-grounded sentiment. The concrete however is a lot harder. How do we break the “glass ceiling”? Is it as simple as intentional hiring? What other concrete steps can be taken? Who has done this successfully and how have they accomplished it (towards what ends?)

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

12 thoughts on “Concrete Steps to Breaking the “Glass Ceiling” in Academic Hiring

  1. @daniel so
    splendid. I know they’re out there; I’ve heard it said they’re not. I just don’t understand that. And I don’t know how to judge the “quality” criterion, which seems to be the argument; “there just aren’t enough quality minority and women scholars who can compete on the academic market today.” Is that a valid presupposition? Well I’m not an educator so I can’t claim to know what hiring’s like.

  2. Might it be that there are fewer women and ethnic minorities are less interested in the academy as it currently stands? Not only that, those invoking the “quality” argument need to define what they mean.

    As for concrete suggestions for participation I think hard questions must be asked about why they want to “diversify” and also what about the current culture of the academy is unattractive. I think we cannot simply assume that people “don’t want it” or that there aren’t enough “quality candidates.”

  3. To add to the two Asian-American women scholars @ Princeton I’m gonna throw Paul Lim’s name into the mix (from Vanderbilt), just to get a list goin here of “quality” ethnic minority and women scholars. I’ll also put in Maxine Hancock and Sarah Williams from Regent.

    How about any up-and-coming scholars who are working thru the farm system who present a great deal of promise? Know of anyone? Names?

  4. Wayne a great discussion. I think that there are some subtle ways that all of us can help with this.
    First – expose students, faculty and our fellow followers of Christ to Christian world views that come from other cultures – I love to collect Christian art from other cultures and have found that using these images in powerpoints and presentations is a wonderful way to expose people to other ethnic views of the Biblical narrative. I also like to share prayers and stories from other cultures that make people aware of the fact that our ethnocentric worldview is not universally held – without me having to say anything
    Make sure that we ourselves do not unconsciously present ethnocentric views as though they are the only view. I became aware of how easily this happens when someone pointed out to me a couple of years ago that my mission photos were all of white people helping black people. Unconsciously it carries the message that black people are the ones who need help and we white guys are the ones who give it.
    Similarly if we always portray the people behind the pulpit or in the academic realm as white and male then unconsciously we send the message that this is what academia looks like.
    Similarly we need to highlight the theological writings of those from other cultures – not always easy to find in the United States but there are still a number of organizations that already do this. The Overseas Ministry Study Center in New Haven Connecticut puts out a publication call the International Bulletin of Mission that draws from a rich array of theological voices. I would heartily recommend it as a place to start.
    Blessings and do keep this conversation going.

  5. just want to throw in a couple thoughts for the discussion…

    1. what we define as “minority” is actually the majority for the rest of the world. and there are plenty of good scholars from india, southeast asian countries, and south america (i’m sure lots from africa as well). just that i dont know enough to give you names.

    2. i think the same goes for women scholars. during my years studying in a seminary in singapore, i’ve come to know some women professors whom i would consider as quality scholars.

    basically i think our view of “the Kingdom” and theological education is still very narrow and north-america focused. i wonder how that affects our education here in north america.

  6. @elderj
    Hey hey guys get a room ;)
    I don’t know Paul personally, but heard him speak once when I was a teen. I’ve skimmed some of his writings and themes – good stuff

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