Career Stereotypes

When I was in college, a poll sent to faculty members found that only something like 3 out of 200 professors were Republican.

The first explanation that came to mind, of course, was that it’s because you have to be reasonably intelligent to be a professor.

A gentler explanation is discussed by a recent NY Times article (“Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left“). It reviews sociological research arguing that because professors are seen as liberal, it’s a career choice that appeals to liberals — thus perpetuating the imbalance.

To Mr. Gross, accusations by conservatives of bias and student brainwashing are self-defeating. “The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism,” he said, “the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.”

Another reason I thought this was interesting is that I’ve been arguing along these same lines for a long time as applied to the dearth of women in computer science. That is, computer science is seen as a community of nerdy boys, so the people attracted to the field tend to be more nerdy boys, plus those who are attracted to nerdy boys.

But I hadn’t quite made it to the logical conclusion that the more we emphasize the lack of women, the more we perpetuate the problem. No wonder the trend has been so difficult to reverse.

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