Catherine Albiston, Professor

Closed (1) Women in STEM: Evaluating Equity in Faculty Recruitment

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

When preferences for men over women for particular jobs were still legal in the United States, job advertisements could explicitly request men for male-typed jobs or women for female-typed jobs. Research found that such explicit sex labeling perpetuated gender inequality by discouraging women from applying, even when the job ads included a non-discrimination disclaimer. Even though the law no longer permits job ads to explicitly refer to male or female candidates, more subtle—but still visible—use of gender-related language in job advertisements persists. Moreover, the continued gender segregation of occupations encourages stereotypical assumptions about the gender characteristics of workers who fill them. Masculine traits are thought to be more essential for success in traditionally male dominated jobs, and men are seen as more likely to be successful in these stereotypically masculine jobs. It should not surprise us, then, to learn that job postings in male-dominated fields contain a higher proportion of stereotypically masculine traits than job postings in female-dominated fields, study participants believe that occupations described by masculine traits are populated mostly by men, and women find these jobs less appealing.

This project investigates the gender stereotyping of jobs by examining the prevalence of masculine traits in job advertisements for tenure-track university positions. Drawing on a unique data set of more than 1,000 job descriptions for tenure-track positions at nine research universities, this project uses computational text analysis to investigate variation in gendered traits in job descriptions among academic fields. It examines whether the language used in academic hiring is related to the representation of women in academic positions across multiple disciplines. We focus in particular on STEM fields relative to other university positions because it is well documented that academic positions in STEM fields are held primarily by men and are perceived to be stereotypically masculine. The findings thus address one potential mechanism that contributes to the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. This project is part of a larger research effort analyzing various factors that affect equity in employment recruitment processes and is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.


Students who participate in the project will have the opportunity to contribute to scholarship for publication and presentations to academic and policy audiences. Students also will participate in lab meetings and will be invited to contribute to the project’s development and to learn more about research design and execution. For outstanding URAPs, future paid employment during summer and fall 2019 may be possible, work and grant funds permitting.

The work involved on this project may include:
• Assisting with analysis of language in faculty job postings using Python scripts;
• Using research findings to generate tools for third parties to evaluate gendered language in their job postings;
• Working with QDA Miner and WordStat to integrate our existing Python text processing routines;
• Assisting with database management using SPSS and STATA;
• Helping prepare publications and presentations based on findings for the study; and
• Literature reviews on text processing methods and techniques.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Matt Cannon, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Very basic familiarity with Python and GitHub are required, but no advance skills are necessary. A demonstrated interest in gender integration in the STEM fields is a plus. Familiarity with QDA Miner, WordStat, PowerPoint, and SPSS or STATA would be useful. The time commitment is six hours minimum per week, plus one hour lab meetings on an occasional basis.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/our-faculty/faculty-profiles/catherine-albiston/

Closed (2) Democracy, Civil Society, and Public Interest Law

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Public interest law organizations (PILOs) play a significant role in policy formation in American society, most visibly through impact litigation cases such as Brown v. Board of Education that often are part of a larger social movement. More recently, organizations such as the ACLU have played critical roles in pushing back against legally dubious government policies regarding immigration and other issues. Over the past thirty years, public interest law expanded dramatically, crossed ideological and practice area boundaries, and weathered significant criticism and political attacks, yet most studies of the field date from the 1970s and 1980s. This study develops a contemporary picture of PILOs, their structure, and their relationship to their environment, with an eye toward the implications for social change. How do these organizations vary in strategy, structure, and mission? How have they changed from the early years of this field? How do geographical and resource dispersion among these organizations relate to stratification in access to justice? How do these organizations respond to environmental factors such as funding imperatives, counter-movements, or legal constraints on their activities? How do their characteristics and strategies relate to media attention, a key mechanism of social change? And, from a more normative perspective, what are the implications for access to justice, and for democratic values such as participation, liberty, and equality?

After writing several articles from data from a representative survey of more than 200 public interest law organizations, I am now writing a book that advances the argument that public interest law organizations are key institutions in democracy and civil society. How, theoretically, might public interest law organizations further democratic values and civil society? In what ways can public interest law organizations be understood as civil society organizations? What is the justification in a democratic society for public interest law organizations that engage in litigation as a social change strategy (e.g., the NAACP Inc. Fund and Brown v. Board of Education, or, more recently, the Center for Individual Rights and Grutter v. Bollinger)? If we examine empirically the activities, structure, and goals of these organizations, how well do these organizations live up to those justifications? Do these organizations enable or inhibit democratic governance and a vibrant civil society?

Qualifications: The URAP student will help me with a variety of substantive research projects related to the book. These include: - assisting with a literature review in political science, law and society, law, and the legal professions sociology literature regarding civil society organizations - drafting brief research memos about the literature on democracy and civil society - help to develop a qualitative analysis of modes or types of civil society organizations in the public interest field drawing on data from the study - helping prepare materials for a major presentation on the book For this project, I am looking for a student who is substantively interested in the topic and has some familiarity with the concept of public interest law (expertise not required). The student should have excellent writing skills and research skills with library research on social science literature, e.g., be able to use online resources that go beyond google scholar, such as the social science citation index, to find relevant articles, and also be comfortable with cross disciplinary research. Responsibilities will include regular meetings (every one to two weeks) with me.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Related website: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/our-faculty/faculty-profiles/catherine-albiston/