AHA Historians discuss backlash against hiring female and minority

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At the AHA meeting Saturday, historians joked about the phrase “chilly climate,” but their barbs about holding on to their winter coats reflected disappointment about what many said was a backlash against efforts to recruit female and minority professors.

History has made more progress than many other disciplines, and many graduate programs have a relatively even mix of men and women — and more minority students than are in many other disciplines. But a series of studies have found that advancement is slow and that the more senior ranks of the profession are much less diverse.

Given that track record, experts gathered at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association discussed why they think progress has been slow, as well as ideas for starting new efforts to help gay historians find jobs and good careers in the field.

To the extent the backlash against affirmative action for women is a response to efforts like Vermont’s to diversify their faculties, others at the meeting spoke of efforts to start more programs to make departments welcoming to gay and lesbian faculty members. While many colleges have anti-bias rules that include sexual orientation, historians at the meeting said that there are relatively few organized efforts to think about factors that may make gay academics feel comfortable on a campus.

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