2 February 2024

Equity v. Equality in the AAS Job Register

Posted by the Code of Ethics Committee and President of the AAS

The AAS Code of Ethics Committee has been contacted regarding ads on the AAS Job Register that are restricted to "women only" in countries outside of the United States. This raises the question of whether these ads abide by the AAS Code of Ethics, which states that members "should promote equality of opportunity." The Code of Ethics Committee discussed these cases at length and recommended to the AAS President and the Ethics Working Group that the code should be updated to focus on equity as a means to pursue equality when marginalized groups are considered. We concluded that the job ads in question are ethical, and here we explain our thinking on this topic.

The Code of Ethics Committee specifically considered two framing questions: Are these ads legal? Are these ads ethical? The answer to the first question is conclusively “yes” according to US Federal laws. The answer to the second question is more nuanced. From the perspective of the Code of Ethics Committee, the long-term goal is for gender (and other demographic characteristics) to not directly influence or constrain one’s career trajectory and opportunities. The data show that that is not currently the case in the US, and the imbalance is even more pronounced in many other countries. As an example, this article explains the motivation, strategies, and legality of affirmative action faculty hiring in Australia. 

In reviewing the cases brought to our attention, the Code of Ethics Committee concluded that the job ads in question, while restricting the hiring pool to certain identity groups, do so with the goal of creating the conditions of equal opportunity that do not presently exist, and are therefore consistent with the AAS Code of Ethics objective of “promoting equality of opportunity.” Moreover, the underlying hiring policies in question are deemed legal in the country where the hiring is being undertaken. 

Given that affirmative action in education and hiring remains an area of active discussion and continues to evolve, we welcome feedback from Society membership on this and related topics.