ACH 2019 whitepaper for DH-WoGeM

 ·   7 min read

This white paper is built on the discussions of the DH-WoGeM working group, which focuses on issues of concern to women and gender minorities. This document is meant to serve as a guide to all digital humanities communities in discussing issues of concern to women and gender minorities. It was inspired by a series of conversation among participants from varying professional roles including tenure-track faculty, librarians, postdoctoral scholars, students, and staff from different institutions. It encompasses larger community concerns about the impact of digital humanities, its institutionalization, its practices, its communities, and its outcomes on the individuals that consider themselves part of the field. Importantly, this white paper is not intended to be a definitive statement on issues related to women and gender minorities in the field, instead it serves as a starting point for iterative work to improve the experience of women and gender minorities in digital humanities. As such, it highlights scenarios that have taken place in the field and provides questions that should be asked of colleagues, peers, employees, and others who are engaged in the digital humanities.


In many institutional contexts, hiring practices are constrained by HR policies that are difficult to parse or negotiate with. While the official job listing may have to include boilerplate text and job requirements that -DH employers would prefer to omit, potential employers can sometimes mitigate this by promoting the job using supplementary materials (e.g. blog posts describing the actual day-to-day experience of doing the job, pros and cons of the position for people with different career goals, etc.) Consider the following questions when hiring for DH positions:

  • If you’re creating a postdoc position, how well does it align with the Postdoc Bill of Rights?

  • Does the job listing include the salary range? If HR policies prohibit you from transparently listing the salary range (e.g. instead referencing a institution-specific “level 12” pay grade or the like), how easy is it for people without access to that university’s authentication system to access information about pay grade levels?

  • Do you provide candidates with a clear outline of the hiring stages (e.g. phone interviews, virtual interviews, on campus interviews, notifications, etc) and their planned deadlines?

  • Do you provide (at minimum) a schedule with biographical information for all meeting participants to candidates for on-campus interviews? Does the schedule accommodate breaks (restroom, lactation, etc)?

  • Do you notify candidates that they haven’t been selected for a job when they’re no longer in the running for the position? How quickly does this process occur? 

  • Do you send a personal note to candidates who haven’t been selected for a position (if you’ve interacted with them beyond receiving their application materials)?

  • If you don’t share hiring/screening questions with candidates in advance, do you have a specific, job-related reason for it?

###Collaboration & Travel

Project meetings, consultations, workshops, talks, and conferences often require travel. On the individual level, being asked to travel does not only require commitment of time and energy, it also disrupts the day to day environment of one’s family, colleagues, and friends. The following questions should guide discussions about travel requirements in the digital humanities:

  • Do you require employees to travel as part of their position? If so, this should be noted in all job announcements, hiring materials, and job descriptions. If travel is optional, how does an employee decline to travel without endangering their status with the organization? Similarly, do you encourage those of differing rank and statuses to travel on behalf of the project or institution? If not, why not?

  • If you require travel, does your institution pre-pay all costs associated with travel? Note that many employees do not have the financial means to be reimbursed. Do not assume that status, salary, or title correlate to the individual’s availability to subvene travel.

  • What policies does your institution have regarding travel funding and reimbursement? Do you provide training to all employees about travel and reimbursement to ensure that they are able to avail themselves of the institution’s resources?

  • When traveling beyond one’s local area, does your institution provide additional support for the employee? Support may include, but is not limited to: funding for childcare, additional compensation (either financial or in equivalent time) for loss of weekends and evenings, visa costs, currency conversion support, etc.

  • If you are inviting participants to your institution, do you have clear policies and procedures for arranging travel? Providing reimbursement? Do not assume that participants have funding to cover their travel nor should you assume that visitors have knowledge of the local area and its resources.

###Productivity and Promotion

  • What metrics does your organization use to measure productivity? Are these criteria clearly elucidated and do they match to systems of promotion? 

  • Are feedback and evaluation structures clearly documented and communicated? Do individuals have opportunities to write rebuttals or request additional evaluations/new evaluators if needed?

  • Does your organization account for issues of disability in customizing what constitutes productivity? (For example, individuals with social anxiety may need alternative forms of engagement professionally.)

  • Does your organization adjust individual workloads to accommodate issues of disability or overwork? How does an employee go about requesting a workload adjustment? Is there a clear procedure that does not stigmatize individuals for asking for assistance?

  • How does your organization recognize labor from collaborators within a project, especially when collaborators are employed in different capacities and promotion may require different kinds of output or recognition? (Librarians, faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, functional staff, etc.)

  • Does your organization maintain a process for renegotiating roles and responsibilities?

###Professional Culture

  • Does your institution have a clear procedure for grievance issues? Are employees provided with regular training regarding workplace conflicts? 

  • Does your institution or project have a clear code of conduct that includes procedures for addressing concerns?

  • Does your organization have an on-boarding process for new employees regarding workplace culture? Do you provide annual training for all employees regarding matters of  professional behavior?

  • Does you association utilize a third-party ombudsman for issues of concern related to employees? Are all employees made aware of the ombudsman and their capabilities?

  • How does your organization address issues of professionalization? Do you check with employee annually/regularly regarding professional development and employee skills?

  • Does your institution train graduate students to recognize their rights under the Collaborators Bill of Rights

  • Does your institution provide structured opportunities for formal and informal mentorship?

###Care Responsibilities 

  • Does your organization allow for flexible working options (i.e. flexible hours, working remotely, etc.) so that employees can more easily balance work and care duties? 

  • For conferences / events:

  • Do you have accommodations for nursing / pumping? (Ideally, a private, lockable room with a power outlet, chair, table, refrigerator, and sink if possible.)

  • Do you have an easy, visible way for people with care responsibilities to request accommodations in scheduling (e.g. having all presentations in the day to minimize time away from home, and/or not having presentations back-to-back in order to leave time for nursing or pumping)

  • Do you offer on-site childcare, or pointers to affordable, recommended childcare providers? (HR at some institutions may not be supportive of creative plans like makerspaces, etc. for entertaining kids while their parents attend the conferences.)

  • Do you offer an on-site “quiet room” with videoconferencing support for parents to be able to watch and engage with presentations, while simultaneously taking care of their children?


Should we live long enough, each of us will experience some kind of disability, be it physical or mental. However, mental disabilities still elicit shame in some of those experiencing them and many spaces are not as accessible, let alone welcoming, as they should be for disabled persons. 

  • Does your institution have a person or place that that those with disabilities can go if they wish to document their condition to take advantage of the ADA and/or FMLA? Is this information provided to employees and updated on a regular basis?

  • Does your organization recognize the need for alternative work environments to accommodate disabilities (e.g. different types of chairs/desks, closed workspaces for auditory disabilities, etc)

  • How is information that is documented distributed? Is there a structure in place to prevent stigmatization or report grievances if an individual feels discriminated against for their disability?

  • How does your institution promote self care, whether a person has a documented disability or not? How does your organization discuss and speak of self care?

  • If health insurance limits treatment (such as a set number of meetings with a therapist), what alternative options are available to employee and peers to address support structures?

  • How can employees assess capabilities realistically so as to remain a productive part of the community? Do these limitations appear clearly in your employee ADA paperwork so that employees can be reasonably accommodated?