Target of Resentment?

Feb 03 2011 Published by under career issues

Today over in FSP I discuss a reader's question about whether accepting a faculty position that was specifically identified as a "target of opportunity" for hiring a person from an underrepresented group is a bad idea. Would a targeted hire be forever treated differently (and not in a good way)?

This reader is particularly concerned about finding herself in a toxic environment of resentment and disrespect if she is hired based on characteristics unrelated to her qualifications.

What to do?

3 responses so far

  • Tracey S. says:

    My position at the University (not faculty but research staff) was labelled as a position that was "underrepresented for women and minorities". However, I was not hired specifically on that basis - I think my gender was kind of bonus, but my previous work and connections are what actually got me the job. And I think nearly all science positions at this institution are labelled that way.

    If you're getting this job because "We need a Black/Female/Disabled/Whatever scientist to meet our quota....hey, you're Black/Female/Disabled/Whatever" that is a different kettle of fish. However, if it's a good opportunity and you ARE qualified for it and there's no reason to believe from other sources that it's a bad enviroment...why turn down a good job. Most jobs are what you make of them. If you go into it feeling like you don't belong there then you will probably be treated that way. If you go into saying "Hey, I'm competent, I'm qualified, I'm an asset to the institution and I caught a lucky break in the hiring" you will probably not be singled out.

    I say probably, because there are some few environments that are just horrible and racist or sexist and all the good attitude and hard work in the world from you isn't going to change that. But it's hard to hide that for long. Look at how you're treated in the interview, what the vibe is when you visit, and if you can talk to others who USED to be there. They'll give you the real answer. But I wouldn't turn down a great opportunity JUST because there's EOE aspect to it.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It just goes into the total calculation about what you can get out of the job if it turns out to suck. Same as for anyone. As you say, there may be a damn good reason the dept is under pressure to diversify. Could be good or could be very very bad. You have to suss that out case by case

  • Zuska says:

    All positions not so labeled are Targets of Opportunity for members of the majority group in the field - which, in STEM professions, is white dudes. White dudes rarely experience angst about the special advantage they receive in the hiring process by virtue of their race and gender, even though we all know it exists. I'm not talking about active discrimination - even people who work very hard to be fair in the hiring process are subject to the forces of subtle bias that affect us all. The topic you've posed here is a variation of the "but I want to get everything all on my own merits!" distraction. This is an unrealistic, unachievable goal, and not actually a desirable goal. Nobody achieves anything all on their own merits. Everybody gets where they get with lots of help from others along the way. So: should you take the job explicitly labeled as a target of opportunity hire? Even when members of underrepresented groups win jobs not so labeled, they are often subjected to a whisper campaign that they only got the job because "they had to give it to a minority". In other words, if you are not a white dude, people will be second guessing you all the time anyway. In a ToO hire situation, people who are likely to do so will just feel a little freer to spread their nasty venom about. What you want to be sure of is whether the department you are going into is happy about having the faculty line and eager to hire YOU, or sullen and resentful about having a "diversity hire" imposed upon them by some noxious administrator from above as part of some nefarious plot to ruin science by opening it up to minorities and lowering standards. If the latter, run far, far away. The usual due diligence about faculty searches applies. Use whatever network you can tap into to get info about how the position was created and to find out how excited (or not) the department is about having the position. If all the signals seem clear, and the job is offered, take it - then work as hard as you can, ignore the venom peddlers, and be happy that this time, the things that usually work to disadvantage you may have finally brought you a slight advantage. But always remember: you had to be good enough in the first place to even be considered for the opportunity, to place yourself in the target zone.