Committee on Lesbian and Gay History Survey on LGBTQ History Careers
Marc Stein, May 2001
Members of the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History (CLGH) have long been concerned about the graduate school and job market experiences of those who complete PhD dissertations on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (lgbtq) history topics. Collectively, these individuals have been responsible for much of the research and teaching advances that lgbtq history has enjoyed in the last 30 years, but they are also the people who, along with independent scholars, have often been most vulnerable to institutional, professional, and departmental discrimination. A recent survey of 44 scholars who have completed or are completing PhD dissertations that deal with lgbtq history, in graduate programs based in the United States and Canada, highlights the difficulties faced by many in the field.1
Overall, the data suggests that despite a significant increase in the number of lgbtq history PhDs produced over the past decade, U.S. history departments have not made a commensurate increase in hiring such scholars to tenure-track positions. Unless change occurs, only about half of those completing PhDs in lgbtq history can expect to meet with success in gaining tenure-track or equivalent (TTE) employment.2 The rest are likely to find themselves working in part-time or temporary academic positions, in educational administration, in libraries and archives, in public history, or in other non-academic jobs. Of the TTE positions obtained, more than half will be in history departments outside of the United States, in women's studies/gender studies units, in American Studies units, or in other nonhistory units. The evidence of two decades thus suggests that, unless things change, the majority of people completing PhDs with dissertations on lgbtq history will not meet with success in gaining tenure-track primary appointments in U.S. history departments.
Of the 44 scholars whose survey responses were analyzed, 59 percent are male, 41 percent are female, 82 percent live in the United States, 14 percent live in Canada, and 5 percent live in the U.K.3 As the figures in Table 1 indicate, 32 respondents (73 percent) have completed their PhDs. Of these 32, 18 (56 percent) are in TTE positions. When four additional non-respondents who are known to have completed lgbtq history dissertations are included, 18 of 36 people with completed PhDs (50 percent) are in TTE positions.
Table 1: Current Positions by Rank, Sector, and Sex
*Graduate students, academic administrators, and public historians/librarians who also work as part-time lecturers or adjuncts have been counted as graduate students, academic administrators, and public historians/librarians and not as part-time lecturers or adjuncts.
The 44 respondents earned or are earning their PhDs in 31 programs at 29 universities in the United States and Canada. Eleven programs (at Duke Univ., NYU, Queen's Univ., Rutgers Univ., Stanford Univ., UCLA, Univ. of California at Santa Cruz, Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of Pennsylvania, and Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison) each account for more than one respondent. These 11 schools account for a majority of the respondents. Over 80 percent of all respondents, respondents with completed PhDs, and respondents in TTE positions earned or are earning their PhDs in history programs.4 (The remainder were or are in American studies or liberal arts.) All 32 respondents with completed PhDs earned their PhDs at universities in the United States.
As the figures in Table 2 reveal, there has been a sharp increase in the number of graduate students working on lgbtq history since the 1970s. Three respondents began graduate studies in the 1970s; 17 began in the 1980s; 24 began in the 1990s. Two respondents finished their PhDs in the 1980s; 24 finished in the 1990s. The majority of respondents (70 percent) are working or worked on U.S. topics.5 The remainder are working or worked on Europe (9 percent), Canada (7 percent), Asia (5 percent), historiography (5 percent), Latin America (2 percent), and US/Canada (2 percent). Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) indicate that 100 percent of their dissertation deals with lgbtq history; 27 percent indicate that 50-90 percent of their dissertation deals with lgbtq history; 25 percent indicate that 5-35 percent of their dissertation deals with lgbtq history. The average length of time it has taken respondents to complete their PhDs is 7.8 years.6 More than three-quarters of those who have finished did so in 6-9 years.
Table 2: First and Final Years in Graduate School
*There are likely more people who began graduate school in 1995-99 than is suggested by this number.
Thirty-one respondents have applied for some type of faculty position; 29 have applied for TTE positions. In line with the growing production of PhDs in lgbtq history, more than six times as many respondents with finished PhDs first began applying for faculty positions in the 1990s as had first begun applying for faculty positions in the 1980s.
Most respondents with completed PhDs (84 percent) have been hired as faculty (TTE, part-time, or temporary). There was a significant increase in the hiring of respondents in the 1990s: 11 times as many respondents were hired as faculty in the 1990s (22) as were hired as faculty in the 1980s (2). (Three more were hired in 2000.) On average, these 27 respondents were hired one year after first applying for faculty positions and six months before completing their PhDs.
Respondents report finding part-time and temporary employment in a wide range of fields and academic units. Of the 72 part-time and temporary positions that have been or are currently held by respondents, 28 percent were in lgbtq and/or sexuality studies, 35 percent were in women's and/or gender studies, 40 percent were in other fields of history; and 15 percent were in other disciplines. Most of these appointments, 60 percent, were in history departments or centers, but 14 percent were in women's/gender studies units, 7 percent were in American studies/civilization units, and 6 percent were in English, literature, or writing units.
Of the 32 respondents with completed PhDs, 18 (56 percent) have been hired as TTE faculty. Of the 29 respondents who completed PhDs and applied for TTE positions, 62 percent (18) have been hired as TTE faculty. Fifteen times as many respondents (15) were hired in TTE positions in the 1990s as were hired in the 1980s (1). (Two more were hired in 2000.) On average, these 18 respondents were hired 2.8 years after first applying for TTE positions and 1.5 years after completing their PhDs. On average, these 18 respondents were hired after six AHA convention interviews and six campus interviews.
Twenty schools (16 in the United States, two in Canada, and two in the U.K.) have hired respondents in TTE positions. No school has hired more than one respondent. Of the 18 respondents who have been hired in TTE positions, 11 (61 percent) were first hired to teach U.S. history/American studies, two (11 percent) to teach lgbtq studies, two (11 percent) to teach Asian history, one (6 percent) to teach History/European Studies, one (6 percent) to teach Latin American history, and one (6 percent) to teach public history. Of the 11 first hired to teach U.S. history/American studies, five were hired to teach post-1945, 20th century, or 19th/20th century U.S. history; three to teach U.S. women's history; one to teach U.S. political history; one to teach U.S. women's and U.S. political history; and one to teach American Studies. (See Table 3 for a breakdown of current positions by primary discipline.)
Table 3: Current Positions by Primary Discipline/Department
*Two of the 11 history positions are held in Canada; one of the 11 history positions is held in the U.K.; the Continuing Education position is held in the U.K.
Those who completed PhDs in history were significantly more likely to find TTE positions (62 percent held TTE positions, as compared to 33 percent with PhDs in American studies or liberal arts). However, there is a net outflow of lgbtq historians from history departments to other types of academic units and from the United States to other countries. While 86 percent of respondents earned or are earning their PhDs in history departments, 63 percent of respondents, 47 percent of respondents with completed PhDs, and 72 percent of respondents with TTE appointments currently have primary or joint affiliations with history departments. Less than one-half of respondents (44 percent) with TTE jobs have exclusive appointments in U.S. history departments. Just under one-quarter of respondents (22 percent) with TTE appointments work in Canada or the U.K., one-sixth (18 percent) work in gender/women's studies units or have joint appointments in gender/women's studies units, one-ninth (11 percent) have primary appointments in American studies units. Of the 8 scholars who have exclusive appointments in U.S. history departments, two did dissertations described as 100 percent lgbtq in contents; the other six describe their dissertations as 10-30 percent lgbtq in contents. Thus, with only two exceptions, respondents who have completed history dissertations that are more than one-third lgbtq in contents are not currently employed in TTE positions in which U.S. history departments acted as the primary hiring units.
—Marc Stein is chair of the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History and assistant professor of history at York University, Toronto. A more comprehensive report will soon be available on the CLGH web site at http://www.oneinstitute.org.
1. Survey conducted August 2000 to January 2001. Analysis based on 44 of 51 responses received. Of the seven respondents whose answers are not discussed here, two did not indicate that their dissertations dealt with lgbtq history; four completed PhDs in comparative literature, sociology, art and art history, or French studies; and one completed a PhD in Europe and lives in Europe. The survey has not captured all people who have completed or are in the process of completing dissertations that deal in part or in full with lgbtq history. One person who completed such a dissertation in the 1970s has died; three people who completed such dissertations in the early 1990s did not respond. This survey also has not captured people who left their PhD programs in the course of doing dissertations on lgbtq history. At least four people did so in the 1990s. For a bibliography of lgbtq history dissertations, see the CLGH Newsletter 14:2 (fall 2000), 8–11 (also available on the CLGH website at www.
oneinstitute.org). The survey does not cover the experiences of people who have produced scholarship in lgbtq history as independent or post-tenure scholars.
2. "Equivalent" refers to relatively secure and full-time academic appointments in the U.K.
3. According to Perspectives, 59–63 percent of new history PhDs from U.S. universities in 1996, 1997, and 1998 were male. See Perspectives, Jan. 2000, 3.
4. History includes history, history of science, and history of consciousness.
5. According to Perspectives, 39–41 percent of all PhDs in history from U.S. universities in 1997 and 1998 worked on U.S. dissertation topics. See Perspectives, Jan. 2000, 4.
6. According to Perspectives, the average number of years registered in graduate programs for people who completed PhDs at U.S. universities in 1998 was 8.6. See Perspectives, Jan. 2000, 4.