(except, of course, when God forbid that people should ignore demographic data): The Feminist Law Professors blog writes:
[TITLE:] Oh for the love of...
Exactly what possessed Eugene Volokh to look into the sexual orientation of female law profs whose scholarship gets cited a lot? See his "update" at end of this post and try to avoid banging your head on the computer monitor.
Hmm — what would possess an academic to look into disproportionate representation by sexual orientation when one is looking at data showing disproportionate representation by sex and ethnicity? Could it be academic curiosity? A desire to find — and then to call attention to — interesting data points that might help shed light on the degree to which personal attributes correlate with professional success, and potentially influence professional success?
Look, let's say the data I give did generalize beyond its very small sample. I stressed that it was quite limited, since it revealed only that 2 of the 6 women law professors on the list of the 50 most cited professors who entered law teaching since 1992 were lesbian or bisexual; at this point, it is at most very tentatively suggestive. But let's say it did lead some readers to look more closely, and find that indeed lesbians and bisexual women are substantially overrepresented among successful women in certain fields.
Wouldn't that be a matter of some scholarly interest? It doesn't matter what one thinks the cause for this disproportion might be: different patterns of discrimination by outsiders, different internal cultural norms within the group, different social and familial structures, biological differences, or whatever else. It doesn't even matter if one is unsure of the cause at the outset, but is just trying to find data that may eventually help identify the cause. Wouldn't the data be pretty interesting to people who are seriously interested in sociology, biology, demography, the legal profession, and a wide range of other fields?
To me, the glory of the academic life is that you're supposed to look for interesting data, bring it up to colleagues, investigate it, speculate about it, and the like. All people should be entitled to do this, but for us this sort of inquisitiveness is part of our jobs. It's too bad that identifying such data leads some to want to bang their heads against their monitors.
More broadly, if you're curious about human behavior — as a scholar or just as a fellow human — isn't there something striking and intriguing about the marked correlations between sexual orientation and participation in various professions? Male homosexuals are notoriously overrepresented in some fields, and while some such claims might at times be spurious, my sense is that on balance conventional wisdom reflects reality. Lesbians are also often said to be overrepresented in other fields (chiefly athletic, in my experience, though not only that); again, some of this may be myth, but I see no reason to assume that it's all myth.
Why is this? Is it culture? The effects of discrimination? Biology? Some mix of these factors? Does it relate only to different rates of interest in the fields, or also to different rates of success? Fascinating questions, it seems to me, and ones that get more fascinating as one acquires more data. So that's what possessed me, and I don't see what's wrong with such possession.
Related Posts (on one page):
- What Fraction of the Population is Gay or Lesbian?
- God Forbid That People Should Look at Demographic Data
- Demographics and Legal Academic Reputation:
- The Federalist Society and All-Male Panels:
- And Here We Thought That Ideological Diversity Is Good Enough: