asu
ASU Secretive About Decision to Hire Four Women For STEM Leadership

August 30, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) won’t disclose the full scope of its hiring decisions resulting in four women leading STEM-related schools and a department within the last 18 months. 

ASU acknowledged a hiring pattern earlier this month when it published a feature article contextualizing the exclusively female appointments as “leading the charge for more diversity in STEM.” The hires were Tijana Rajh, made director of the School of Molecular Sciences; Donatella Danielli, made director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; Patricia Rankin, made chair of the Department of Physics; and Nancy Manley, made director of the School of Life Sciences. 

The article doesn’t mention the professional accomplishments of these women. Instead, the article focused on how the women felt undermined in STEM through a glass ceiling, an “old boys club,” bias, and the sexism of male colleagues doubting their abilities. The article did mention the women’s equity-related accomplishments such as organizing panels on women in math leadership and stocking female sanitary products in the bathrooms. 

ASU expressed a goal of balancing the proportions of women and men leading and studying STEM-related subjects. However, ASU stated that gender didn’t play a role in their hires of Rajh, Danielli, Rankin, and Manley. 

“ASU is out to change those numbers – and, as evidenced by the hirings of Rajh, Danielli, Rankin and Manley — in a meaningful way,” read the article.

When AZ Free News reached out to ASU, spokesman Jay Thorne said that the university doesn’t comment on individuals who weren’t hired.

“The four women noted in the story were hired, some of them quite some time ago, in an open competitive process, each from highly credible institutions. Not much else to say that wasn’t in the story,” said Thorne. “If there is another particular angle you are interested in, let me know.  Otherwise, the story speaks for itself and the university has no comment about other candidates for these positions.”

When we requested further background on why the four women were chosen at the exclusion of other, possibly male candidates, noting that the entirety of the article focused on the women shattering glass ceilings and overcoming sexism without mentioning any of their accomplishments, this was the only response we received:

“Yep. Understood. Fair enough. Thank you,” wrote Thorne.

Although Thorne wrote that ASU doesn’t comment on those who weren’t hired, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Patrick Kenney felt it necessary in the article to disclose that men were rejected. 

ASU also revealed in the feature article that both tenure and non-tenure track female faculty increased in other STEM areas, namely the School of Molecular Sciences.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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