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How much to tell: Out on the academic job market?

August 28, 2013

It’s for real!  This season is my season.  Job openings are starting to pop up and I’m serious about doing my best to land one of them.  In the time between now and the deadlines – some as early as mid-September! – only small things are within my control.  My training, pedigree, experience and funding record are what they are.  My publication record can only get better as manuscripts slowly continue to be released to the wild.  My teaching statement can be polished and tailored to specific departments.  My research plan will change drastically as my scientist pals chime in.  All of this causes much anxiety, but it’s anxiety that I’m trained to deal with.

What is worrying me are the details.  Things that shouldn’t matter at all, but that I’m afraid might – at least a little.  Things that pale in comparison to my publication record, plans for scientific world domination and funding potential.  However, these small things are wholly within my control, so I can obsess about them.  Indeed, instead of re-making Figure 2, I’m currently trying to figure out if I should include a significant leadership position I held in an LGBT graduate student group on my CV.   The question of the day is: should I out myself in my application materials?

Of course!  Right?  Why on earth would I want a job in a homophobic department?  So if being gay is going to be a problem, well, best not to waste each other’s time.  Feeling is mutual.  Ciao, dinosaurs!

Except…  I do actually want a job.  An academic job.  With start-up and my own minions and new colleges and instrumentation.  In the current market, with hundreds of amazing candidates applying for each and every position, if my application makes it into the select pool of candidates that a university is considering inviting for a campus visit, I don’t want to miss that opportunity because when it comes down to it, departments can only invite a few people and the candidate who is not an out lesbian just seems like they would probably be a “better fit”.

If I do manage to score an interview or two, I will casually and cheerfully out myself when the totally-illegal-but-always-asked-anyway questions about my “second body” pop up.  But by that time, I’ll be there face to face, and I will have already totally rocked that interview, so the nebulous “fit” questions will be less of an issue.  I hope.  So I should totally hedge my bets and leave off the line, right?  Except it seems cowardly and wrong to (very slightly) weaken my CV due to fear of bias that possibly doesn’t even exist.

I’ve have a few queer friends make the step from not-professor to professor, but all in fields that are “culturally” and intellectually rather distant from mine, so while I know what they’ve done, I’m not sure how well it translates.  There are about three weeks left for me to obsess about this.  Any opinions or anecdotes, internet?

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  1. A serious department (as part of a serious University) will be keenly aware that a diverse population of students is best mentored (and recruited!) by a diverse population of faculty, and also aware that such diversity should include breadth in gender, ethnic background, and sexual orientation. If you present your leadership and advocacy efforts in such a light, I believe that you are correct to view inclusion of your GS activity on your CV as an important plus.

    We’re now up to 12 states plus the District of Columbia (and even a few New Mexico counties?) that have legalized same-sex marriage — including, happily, my own state of Minnesota. My colleagues and I at the University of Minnesota are EAGER to use our, dare I say, more enlightened status on this front as a recruiting OPPORTUNITY — we WANT to win with gay and lesbian applicants with killer CVs who will see us as being more likely to be welcoming and supportive.

    As you seem to recognize, first and foremost search committees are going to want to see great research and teaching credentials, but when it comes down to the final steps of selecting interviewees, the smaller facets of the total package can indeed prove decisive. So show yours off polished.

  2. While I am unsure that listing roles in graduate student organizations on your cv is going to aid or facilitate your job search, I feel strongly that you should leave it on if you feel that it’s an important piece of the information that helps others to understand the kind of academic that you want to become.

    Virulent homophobes (in academia or elsewhere) are not going to wait for you to self-disclose to begin discrimination; they are going to start it the moment they perceive your sexuality might be anything but heterosexual. Disclosing this only allows your potential allies to understand who you are better.

    (PS, In my own personal experience, having obtained a faculty job 12 years ago and now being a post-tenure Professor, no amount of start up or shiny facilities compare to the never ending joy of being surrounded by open, welcoming and supportive colleagues and students. There is no substitute for this.)

  3. Bashir permalink

    I would like to think that it won’t hurt you. I bet it won’t hurt you. But I don’t know for sure. Things being how they are with the market being so tight and hiring being so idiosyncratic. Part of me thinks you should hide anything that may give some person the impression that you are a bad “fit”. IMO departments desire for diversity is 95% lip service. It still pays to be “one of the guys”.

    On the other hand probably there are a million of other things that will matter more that you don’t have control over.

  4. This is a really hard question. I was pretty out when I was doing the job search, especially at the interview stage (I even wrote a post about it: BUT – there was nothing on my CV that would have made that clear to folks that didn’t know me.

    I guess that if I was going to give you advice (based on my own experience at R1 institution, YMMV, etc), I would say to leave the LGBTQ leadership position off of your CV. Because in the end, there is no way that one less line on this portion of your CV actually matters. I always tell folks not to give the folks reading applications a reason to eliminate you. Because, sadly, if there are a lot of good applications it comes down to a very subjective call about who are the “best” 10-20 applicants. Even if they are not overtly homophobic, unconscious bias can totally fuck you. So why take that risk?

    And don’t think that I am comfortable with that advice. I wish that I could say that it totally wouldn’t matter and that you should put all the info about yourself out there on the CV. But I don’t think we are there yet. And you can make your case so much better in person, after they are already somewhat invested in you (because they brought you out for an interview).

    My 2 cents.

  5. Thank you for your perspectives. I’m still obsessing (though I did put the smack down on Figure 2. It totally kicks ass now), but I’m leaning towards deleting that line. I want my chance to play very badly.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Conditionally Accepted | Tolerating Anti-LGBTQ Intolerance In The Classroom
  2. Tolerating Anti-LGBTQ Intolerance In The Classroom « Eric Anthony Grollman, Ph.D.

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