Feminist Philosophers

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The Ammonius Foundation funds men February 11, 2012

Filed under: gendered conference campaign — magicalersatz @ 8:40 pm

The Ammonius Foundation is the subject of a recent article in Slate (hat tip: Brian Leiter).

The foundation gives out substantial “Foundational Grants” to support research in metaphysics and cognate fields. So far, these grants have only been given to men. The foundation also funds “Target  Investigation Grants” – though so far only one of these has been given out (to a man).

Alongside the more substantial grants, the foundation runs two annual prize schemes. The “Younger Scholars in Metaphysics” prize can at least boast one woman (Rachael Briggs) among its 10 recipients; both the winner of the “Younger Scholars in Philosophical Theology” have been men.

(Thanks for the tip, A!)

 

34 Responses to “The Ammonius Foundation funds men”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The Ammonius Foundation site says it is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit. Thus by federal law, it is not permitted to discriminate on the basis of race or gender. It would be interesting to hear what the foundation would have to say if it were required to demonstrate that the process of selection people upon whom to bestow awards or from whom to commission reviews is free of bias.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    The Younger Scholar prizes involve a blind-review process. I don’t know anything about the grants, but I’m pretty sure that for the prizes, all they would have to do is show that there is blind review. Which there is. So at least for those prizes, I don’t see what the foundation is doing wrong.

  3. annejjacobson Says:

    anonymous of #2: there are lots of ways in which gender can still play a role even though the reviewers are not informed of the gender of the paper writer. One is when the person picking the reviewers or the person deciding how to weight the reviews knows. Reviewers may also know who the writer is from the topic or approach.

    BTW, at this blog we avoid using “blind” to signifiy ignorance or not knowing. We don’t want to encourage that association with blind people and/or use language that our readers with sight problems find troubling.

  4. Mike Says:

    BTW, by recent article on Slate, you mean “recently republished article that first appeared in Lingua Franca a decade or so ago.”
    Sorry to nitpick.

  5. Euthyphronics Says:

    The prize is awarded by a panel (generally of three) who read the papers and award the prize in ignorance of the paper’s authors — or, at least, as much ignorance as possible given the way drafts can get shopped around at conferences etc beforehand. The identity of the panel is public knowledge, and changes at least somewhat year-to-year.

    There are, of course, lots of ways implicit gender bias can still get into the system. (The kinds of virtues valued, subtle writing-style cues, etc.) But in this particular case — unlike the case of grants awarded! — I’m not really sure what could be done to militate directly against these factors. (Unless gender of authors is made known to the panel, so they can try to compensate directly? Some might think that cure is worse than the disease…)

  6. magicalersatz Says:

    Euthyphronics, thanks very much for the clarification about the prizes. I agree that the case of the prizes and the case of the grants are importantly different – since there’s at least an effort at blind review for the prizes. But, again, what we’re doing with these posts is drawing attention to patterns. And there seems to be a whole lot of pattern going down at Ammonius, whatever the explanation (which might well vary depending on the form of the funding.)

  7. Euthyphronics Says:

    ME — agreed. I was responding to the first three comments, but didn’t mean to imply that the patterns in prize awards shouldn’t have been mentioned.

    In fact, I’m inclined to think that gender bias *is* an important factor in how the prizes have been awarded — just not in a direct way that would be solved by a procedural change. Rather, the (sub)discipline has internalized certain value weightings which statistically tend to prefer men. (Eg, a preference for geeky-technical-logicky work, even if it’s not all that creative or original philosophically, over innovative big-picture stuff where the technical details are less worked out. Statistically — for reasons that are probably very related to the stuff on math education and gender-correlated self-perception — these values favor males, at least in metaphysics. And notice how many of the papers that won fit the “geeky logicky” description.) These issues need to be addressed, probably by a (sub?)discipline-wide reflection on how we weight philosophical virtues. I think pointing out how gender-biases seem to clearly appear despite a pretty fair and level-headed *local* selection process
    can be a valuable impetus for this reflection.

  8. magicalersatz Says:

    Really well said, Euthyphronics. And I doubt this is a point specific to the younger scholars prize – similar points seem to apply to, e.g., The Philosopher’s Annual.

  9. annejjacobson Says:

    Euthyphronics, I think you are making an important point. I’ve tried to write a little bit about the covert gender indications before, and I’d love to do a post using your points and the one I’ve thought about. With a due reference.

    I think it is interesting and maybe annoying that some men are allowed to do the big picture stuff, but generally I think that the preferences you describe apply. One reason I think this is that I’m old enough to remember when there was a big distinction drawn between philosophical problems and problems about philosophical literature. I think that distinction is largely lost now.

    Do just say if you’d rather I didn’t; then I’ll just refer to your remark here. A

  10. Euthyphronics Says:

    Hi Anne, that sounds great to me. I look forward to your post!

  11. Kris McDaniel Says:

    I’ve been a referee for Oxford Studies in Metaphysics twice. I can honestly say that I did not know who the authors of the papers accepted were prior to their acceptance, but I don’t know whether that is true of the other refs, who may get around a bit more than me.

    In my limited experience, there were two different kinds of papers submitted to O.S.M.: techy/logicky/geeky metaphysics papers, and papers so goofy and off that I suspect they were submitted by the kind of ‘unaffiliated scholars’ that flood my inboxes with their manuscripts about Spinoza, quantum physics, and the soul as an electromagnetic endomorphic wave. Either that or they were hoaxes. In other words, all of the suitable submissions were of the ‘same genre’ as the papers published in the journals themselves.

    So although I pretty much agree with the spirit of the remark made above by Euphyphronics (repeated here)…:

    “In fact, I’m inclined to think that gender bias *is* an important factor in how the prizes have been awarded — just not in a direct way that would be solved by a procedural change. Rather, the (sub)discipline has internalized certain value weightings which statistically tend to prefer men. (Eg, a preference for geeky-technical-logicky work, even if it’s not all that creative or original philosophically, over innovative big-picture stuff where the technical details are less worked out. Statistically — for reasons that are probably very related to the stuff on math education and gender-correlated self-perception — these values favor males, at least in metaphysics. And notice how many of the papers that won fit the “geeky logicky” description.) These issues need to be addressed, probably by a (sub?)discipline-wide reflection on how we weight philosophical virtues. I think pointing out how gender-biases seem to clearly appear despite a pretty fair and level-headed *local* selection process
    can be a valuable impetus for this reflection.”

    … I do think it is worth taking into account the fact that at least during the two years I reffed, all of the papers published, prize winning or not, were pretty techy-geeky, as even a quick investigation of the tables of contents reveals, and this is because all of the non-absurd submissions were of this genre. So there certainly was some amount of self-selection going on by the people *who submitted the papers* during those years. (And this self-selection obviously could be partially the result of gender biases in the problem, and nothing said here is meant to cast doubt on that.)

    So, just to be clear, I think I agree with every sentence in the quoted paragraph above except for *maybe* the very first sentence, since at least in the two years I reffed, there just wasn’t an opportunity to favor techy over big-picture work since there wasn’t really any of the second kind to consider period. I obviously can’t speak to years I didn’t ref, hence the “maybe”. Perhaps Dean or some of the other people who reffed could weigh in on this?

  12. magicalersatz Says:

    Kris, could you clarify how many papers you’ve reviewed for the Younger Scholars prize? While I’m sure you’re reporting an accurate description of your own experience, I wonder whether two instances of refereeing generate a sample size that’s large enough to substantiate conclusions about the overall makeup of the submissions.

  13. magicalersatz Says:

    Also, it might be worth clarifying what is meant by papers that are “geeky/techy”. Obviously, there’s a sense of “geeky” in which any paper in metaphysics qualifies as geeky. But I was construing Euthyphronics to mean something more substantial by “geeky/techy” papers (though I could be wrong about this): papers that make extensive use of formal methods or require substantial technical background knowledge, for example. On this construal, Jeff Russell’s paper, Jason Turner’s paper, and Rachael Briggs and Graeme Forbes’ paper count as “geeky/techy”, but Shamik Dasgupta’s does not.

    I would be very surprised indeed if the only “suitable” submissions were, in general, geeky/techy in this more specific sense.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    “In fact, I’m inclined to think that gender bias *is* an important factor in how the prizes have been awarded — just not in a direct way that would be solved by a procedural change. Rather, the (sub)discipline has internalized certain value weightings which statistically tend to prefer men. (Eg, a preference for geeky-technical-logicky work, even if it’s not all that creative or original philosophically, over innovative big-picture stuff where the technical details are less worked out.”

    1. I think this characterization might be slightly unfair, because I think the real preference is for things that manage to do both. Yes, I think there is a bias towards geeky-techy-logicky. But that doesn’t mean that metaphysicans–good metaphysicians– aren’t capable of recognizing when a paper is trivial, unoriginal, or uncreative.

    2. Are we saying that it is *bad* for metaphysicians to have internalized this value weighting that statistically prefers men? Because that’s not at all clear to me. Or at least, it needs to be motivated independently of the gender bias issue. Otherwise, mathematicians are bad people for preferring formal work over non-formal work, because they are exhibiting a bias against women.

  15. Kris McDaniel Says:

    I dunno if it is enough to make claims about all of submissions to all of the volumes, which is why I explicitly hedged to the two years I could make claims about. I certainly didn’t want to give the impression of trying to make too much of my own experience here. On the other hand, two years = two issues out of nine(?) isn’t totally insignificant either and I didn’t ref two years in a row, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Both years I looked at papers submitted to the journal for possible publication rather than merely those that were to be published. Although the second time I reffed, I learned after the fact that some had been pre-selected as possibly worthy of the prize, and that I wasn’t actually required to read the papers that weren’t. This was my fault, I think I didn’t read the instructions carefully, but in my defense I was still recovering from some pretty bad injuries when I was initially asked…. and so because I did more than I was expected to do, I did read all the papers that were under consideration for publication rather than simply a subset of those that were up for the prize.

    The first time I reffed I was asked to make two kinds of judgments: whether the paper was worthy of being published in the journal and whether it was worthy of being awarded the prize. The second time I reffed I was only asked to be make the latter. As I said, in both cases I read what I took to be all the submissions, although the second time that was not required of me….

    I can’t remember for certain how many papers I reviewed both years. I would guess an average of somewhere between fifty to seventy each year. I’d have to dig deep into my records to find something more exact about the first time, since the first time I reffed was some years ago. And unfortunately my dog destroyed my laptop last year, which culminated in the deletion of roughly six months worth of data, including my notes on the papers in the second year. (My dog really did destroy my homework.)

    On reflection, I am less confident that I read *absolutely all* of the submissions the second time that I reffed than I am on the first time, because there were many flatout nutz papers the first time, which indicated that there had been little to no editorial pre-selection (this is not meant as a criticism of the editor, just as a data point, but I do remember being a little taken back by this and mentioning it to another of the refs). Whereas during the second and more recent time there were very few papers that were just flat out awful — which suggests that more editorial pre-selection could have been in play. And which does open the possibility for the kind of worries Euphyronic was talking about to play a role…. But the total number of submissions that I looked at was in the same ballpark as the previous year, so I think it is likely that the editors eliminated from consideration only those papers that were on any reasonable standard not even close to publishable.

    I wonder if Dean or Karen have records on who submitted… if so, it would probably be pretty easy to get a figure on percentage of women in the submission pool. Having that information would probably shed more light than anything I’ve said here.

  16. Kris McDaniel Says:

    quick clarification re: 13.

    I’m using ‘geeky/techy’ in a much broader way. Every paper published in the two years I reffed is geeky/techy in the sense I had in mind. Shamik’s was.

    I don’t think it’s a useful classification though. The more informative thing that I said was that, during the two years I reviewed, the suitable submissions were all of the same genre as the ones published, prize winning or not.

  17. magicalersatz Says:

    Thanks, Kris, that’s helpful. It wasn’t clear from your original comment that you saw all the papers considered eligible for the prize (rather than just a few that you were asked to give expert opinion on.)

    Though I’m curious as to what you mean by “of the same genre”. Is Ross Cameron’s paper (published, but “runner-up” for the prize) of the same genre as Jason Turner’s (which won the prize)? Turner’s paper is very technical, whereas Cameron’s is not. Whether or not we think it’s a distinction in “genre”, surely we can draw a distinction between papers which rely on formal methodology and papers that don’t? And once we make that distinction, it’s worth thinking about how prominent female metaphysics are distributed across the divide. When I’m just thinking about names off the top of my head, it does seem that many of the prominent female metaphysics that come to mind (Katherine Hawley, Laurie Paul, Jessica Wilson, Carrie Jenkins, Karen Bennett, etc) do work that isn’t particularly reliant on or immersed in formal methodology.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t female metaphysicians who do very technical work! Nor is it to say that it’s bad for metaphysics to be technical. But I was reading Euthyphronics as saying something like this: (i) there can be good work in metaphysics that isn’t highly technical; (ii) but, for various reasons, we might tend to favor work that is highly technical over equally good work that isn’t technical; (iii) this might (for all sorts of reasons having to do with education, training, bias, etc) disadvantage women.

  18. Euthyphronics Says:

    Kris, no arguments with your caveat. (I’d just worry it gets subsumed under the broader point; if (a) women statistically tend to write fewer high-tech papers but (b) have internalized value weightings that select against higher-tech papers, they may be more prone to think, “Well, I don’t really have anything that’s got a decent shot at the prize,” and not submit.)

    ME at 17: I’m inclined to think of the “geeky/techy” variable as less a genre distinction and more as something that comes in degrees. Roughly: the more technically difficult (or, better: the fewer working metaphysicians who have the technical competence to have produced the paper), the higher score it gets on the geek/tech front. And I think the extremely common judgement made of papers that do this (and do it well) is “impressive”. Just introspecting on my own knee-jerk judgements of papers, I can’t think of any other factor that’s as highly correlated with the word “impressive” as going high on the tech scale and doing it well.

    Anonymous at 14: 1. Agreed, the ultimate preference is for papers that do both, and do both well, in a sort of Aristotelian mean. Unfortunately, I doubt that the OSM committee can expect the platonic form of Metaphysics Paper to be submitted on a yearly basis. When the top two papers are ones with (say) a very good grip on the big picture and a spectacularly executed technical maneuver on the one hand, and with a spectacular innovation about the big picture with a very good understanding of the technical details on the other, how do those get ranked?

    On your 2: I hadn’t actually said anything about whether the internalized value rankings were a good thing or a bad thing, and I certainly wasn’t motivating any claim like this on the gender bias issue. What I said was that we needed to have a conversation about it, because I think that the discipline has uncritically accepted these value rankings, and I think we can all agree that that’s a bad thing. My own view is that, while technological virtues are indeed virtues, they’re only instrumental ones — they’re goods insofar as they show that creative and innovative ideas actually can do the work it looks like they’re supposed to do. And I think further that we often inadvertently treat them as intrinsic philosophical virtues, philosophical goods in their own right, and need to stop.

    What I think is clearly motivated by the gender bias issues is that, if technical work really is an intrinsic philosophical virtue (which I doubt, but set that aside) and there is a non-gender-equitable distribution of who’s doing that, then we need to take steps to counter that distribution, e.g. by actively doing things to remove all the various subtle barriers to entry that get thrown up around the logicky side of the discipline. Heck, we need to be doing that anyway — but if technical work is an intrinsic virtue, then the burden is just that much heavier.

  19. Kris McDaniel Says:

    “Though I’m curious as to what you mean by “of the same genre”. Is Ross Cameron’s paper (published, but “runner-up” for the prize) of the same genre as Jason Turner’s (which won the prize)? Turner’s paper is very technical, whereas Cameron’s is not. Whether or not we think it’s a distinction in “genre”, surely we can draw a distinction between papers which rely on formal methodology and papers that don’t? And once we make that distinction, it’s worth thinking about how prominent female metaphysics are distributed across the divide. When I’m just thinking about names off the top of my head, it does seem that many of the prominent female metaphysics that come to mind (Katherine Hawley, Laurie Paul, Jessica Wilson, Carrie Jenkins, Karen Bennett, etc) do work that isn’t particularly reliant on or immersed in formal methodology.”

    yes, same genre.

    agreed, one definitely can draw that distinction, though Laurie’s work on causation can get pretty technical, Jessica and Katherine’s on phil physicy metaphysics, as well etc. Sure, there aren’t pages and pages of nothing but symbols in most of their work, but that is also true of most of the work in metaphysics done by David Lewis, Ted Sider, John Hawthorne, Ross Cameron, myself, etc., etc. I agree with you that it is definitely worth thinking about how women in metaphysics (whether prominent or not) are distributed across the spectrum.

    Euthyphronics, seems like we are on the same page.

  20. Katherine Hawley Says:

    It’s also worth thinking about self-selection and what it takes to put yourself forward for a prize. I’m no longer a Younger Scholar (or a younger scholar) but there were several years when I would have been eligible to enter, and I never did. On reflection, there were various reasons for this, including more general considerations about where to try to publish, and I doubt I had a self-esteem problem. But the thought of self-nominating for a prize, then not getting it and perhaps being published as a runner-up, did seem more off-putting than the thought of submitting to a journal then (privately) getting rejected, something which is routine for all of us.

    (I’m not suggesting this is the only factor; the points discussed in previous comments are important.)

    One useful step we can all take is to encourage all our qualified students and Younger colleagues to enter this sort of thing, rather than relying on them to see themselves as potentially prizeworthy.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    euthophronics–anonymous here. Thanks so much for the clarification. I agree 100% with what you say in your response. Cheers.

  22. Matt Says:

    But the thought of self-nominating for a prize, then not getting it and perhaps being published as a runner-up…

    I think many of us would consider being published as the runner-up to a top prize as being a very nice outcome indeed!

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Hi, all. Kris pointed out this thread to me. I’ll try to recover some data on percentages of male/female applicants to the Oxford Studies prize over the years. But I can confirm that the standard procedure has been: (1) authors prepare essays for anonymized (? is that a word?) review, (2) in the last five or six years (when the numbers of applications have been higher) I’ve had a panel of two metaphysicians (not including me) read all essays and narrow it down to a top 10 or 12 (the most we’ve had is, I think 45 — Kris just thinks he read 70! we never had that many; in the early years it was just 25 or 30, and the first panel wasn’t necessary; there was just one committee of three that read them all), and then (3) a panel of three (again, not including me) determines the winner (and the panel has not always been all male, and I think usually the winners or runners-up that were published were genuinely unknown to the judges). Because the system seemed about as bias-proof as I could make it (perhaps I was being naive), I didn’t worry much about gender or other kinds of bias. But I have noticed that a very small percentage of applicants are women (however, all of the papers that I think Kris is describing as nutty were NOT written by women — all the really crazy metaphysicians are men, believe me! wacky metaphysicians are always sending me stuff…I didn’t eliminate any crazy papers on my own, I left that up to referees, but I’ve never received a really bizarre, obviously inappropriate paper from a female philosopher). At least two younger women philosophers have been runners-up or have won (Rachel Briggs won, with a younger male co-author — Rachel is a rising star, we tried to hire her at Rutgers and couldn’t, she wasn’t riding anybody’s coattails — and Maureen Donelly was a runner-up who was published). My records are spread over a couple of old computers. I’ll see what I can dig up. As far as the senior Ammonius grants go, I don’t know exactly how Marc Sanders selected people to invite (sadly, he passed away a year ago). He seemed to me to be simply making offers to the most senior metaphysicians he could talk into being associated with his foundation who were on board with its “values” or “principles” (and lots of people were skittish about being associated with his rather unusual foundation, so he was often turned down; and most senior metaphysicians were male; so there were several factors in play).

  24. oh, the last post was by me, Dean Zimmerman.

  25. Kris McDaniel Says:

    I hope Dean doesn’t get the impression from my misremembering how many papers I reffed that it was unduly burdensome!

  26. I think that Katherine Hawley raises an important issue. When I submitted my paper I didn’t think of it as “self-nominating for a prize”. Rather, I thought of it as more like applying for a job, i.e. where you put yourself forward even if you don’t think you have much of a shot at it and even if you’re unsure whether you deserve it. If this kind of difference in perception of what it is to submit a paper to the competition cuts across gender lines, this could lead to a gender bias in the application pool (though I don’t know whether there is one). In any case, Katherine’s suggestion that we encourage others to enter the competition rather than relying on them to see themselves as prizeworthy strikes me as excellent. (Sorry Dean and Karen for the extra work this may entail!)

  27. (Sorry: by “cuts across gender lines” I meant “correlates with gender lines”).

  28. Aaron Says:

    It’s worth noting that for the 2010 Younger Scholars Prize in Philosophical Theology, the two runners-up were women: Shieva Kleinschmidt and Meghan Sullivan. So 2 of the 3 finalists were women.

    I don’t know who were runners up for 2011.

  29. Dean Zimmerman Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Aaron. And it’s also worth noting that those runners-up, Shieva and Meghan (former students of mine, by the way! of whom I could not be more proud), will consequently have their essays published in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, as a result of the competition funded by Ammonius.

    And now I have recovered data for the Oxford Studies in Metaphysics competition from the past few years (earlier data is on very outmoded computers…and the number of essays was much smaller, we started out with 10 or 15 entries for the first few years, some years no women applied, and we rarely published more than one essay out of the batch):

    2009 competition: 4 out of 55 submissions were by women (or included a woman as a co-author)

    2010 competition: 9 out of 53

    2011 competition: 4 out of 44

    2012 competition: 1 out of 45

    In the years 2009-2011, winners or runners-up that were accepted for publication by the panel of judges included papers by (or co-authored by) Rachael Briggs, Maureen Donnelly, Elizabeth Barnes, and Jessica Wilson (forthcoming). Those are pretty amazing odds! The essays were prepared for review so as to make the authors’ identities as unknown as possible (if someone has a better single word for this than “blind” please tell me, I would really like to use it instead of that long-winded description! Is “anonymized” a word?). So Karen Bennett and I don’t get credit for using affirmative action, just for being fair.

  30. Dean Zimmerman Says:

    Oh, I forgot! Maya Eddon’s essay was a very close runner up in 2011, also selected for publication. So that’s five women getting published out of the competition from three years when there were only 17 female authors among about 150 entries!

    Earlier in this thread, there was a theme that sounded something like “women don’t like/aren’t as good at techy metaphysics”. I have no idea what to think about that suggestion, as a general claim about women philosophers; but I do know that the women actually in metaphysics who enter this competition are very, very good at doing exactly the kind of rigorous metaphysics that tends to get published in journals and volumes like OSM. The women are just massively outnumbered by men. And the percentages have been getting worse, not better, as you can see from the previous post.

    When I started OSM, I invited just about every well-known senior-to-mid-career female metaphysician I could think of to contribute a paper, and initially completely struck out. I had assumed that younger women in the crowd coming out of the competition would pick up the slack, and eventually they did, to some extent (though it took a while). But if the pool for the prize is any indication, the proportion of women in metaphysics is still very small, and not rapidly increasing.

  31. magicalersatz Says:

    Dean, thanks very much for joining the thread and sharing your perspective. I should emphasize again the the point of these GCC posts is simply to call attention to (worrisome) patterns, not to assign any sort of blame for the existence of those patterns. I hope you didn’t feel that you were being personally accused of unfairness or sexism, simply in virtue of being in charge of the prize. But I hope we can all admit that the list of men’s names you find when you go to the Ammonius website is *striking*, regardless of what the particular (and various) explanations for the male predominance might be.

    Just to clarify some earlier remarks that you make reference to: I don’t think it was suggested that that women are less good at techy metaphysics (I certainly hope it wasn’t!), though we did bat around the idea that they might (for the sorts of non-gender-essentialist-crap reasons Euthyphronics was pointing out) be *less likely* to do work in metaphysics that is highly technical. Again, it’s important to make a distinction between “techy” – as in “requires a good amount of formal expertise to write, and a decent amount of background formal knowledge to understand” – and “rigorous” (cf. Euthyphronics at 18). Work can be rigorous without being techy in this sense of “techy”. Judith Jarvis Thompson’s defense of abortion is extremely rigorous, for example, but it isn’t techy. I don’t think anyone was suggesting that women are less interested in or not as good at work that is rigorous! (You’d have to be a bit nuts to think this, really, given all the salient counterexamples.)

    Finally, I’d like to take issue with this portion of your comment: “When I started OSM, I invited just about every well-known senior-to-mid-career female metaphysician I could think of to contribute a paper, and initially completely struck out. I had assumed that younger women in the crowd coming out of the competition would pick up the slack” [my emphasis]. There’s an unfortunate trend, in discussions like these, for people to blame women for women’s lack of success. (I’m not saying you meant to do this! But I think your “pick up the slack” phrasing could easily be interpreted that way.) If women would just submit to the damn prize, we wouldn’t have this problem! If more women were doing metaphysics, we wouldn’t have this problem!

    But of course it’s not that simple, nor is it helpful to blame women in this way. As several others have pointed out already in the thread, there might be all sorts of reasons why women are reluctant to submit to something like the Younger Scholars Prize. I’d hope that the reaction to such reluctance isn’t simply “oh well, we tried – at least our procedure is fair”. It seems, rather, that what should be done in the face of such reluctance are the sorts of things Katherine Hawley alludes to above – more efforts at mentoring young female scholars and encouraging them to go for this kind of thing, more active solicitation of papers from women, more attempts to find out about women (who might otherwise be off your radar) who might be invited to submit to the prize, etc. Problems like this aren’t going to be solved by blind review alone.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    I look at a discussion like this and think that we ought to remind ourselves of the reality of women’s lives. I want to say clearly from the start that I am NOT presenting myself as some unknown star. If for no other reason, it is impossible to think highly of one’s work when one has little positive feedback and waves and waves of negativity. And no doubt there are features of my work that do not help me. I’m the typical divergent thinker; I am far more interested in raising questions and seeing connections than I am in closing down the argument, though I can of course do that.

    One of my very famous graduate advisors from a very famous school wrote references for my job applications that said “Her best work, like her dissertation is full of original thoughts of profound significance.” (One department chair read it to me.) Another said, perhaps rashly, that if he could have just one of my ideas in his lifetime, he would be happy. And you certainly do know some of my ideas, but you probably won’t connect my name, if you recognize it at all, with someone who does outstanding metaphysics. Of course, my ideas get picked up, and not attributed to me. I have even experienced reading a refutation of views of mine (by someone who had replied to my paper on the topic at a conference) with no mention of me.

    What goes on? Well, the first thing I managed to get published was judged by the referee as “too implausible to be published,” but the editor decided it was worth saying, though he hoped it would be decisively refuted. It is now a standard point in a field, but often attributed to a man who mistakenly claimed it for his own at a meeting. It does reverse what was a very, very standard point in the field.

    And I’ve had an enormous difficulty getting things published for myself. I think a lot of it is that people look at my work and ask themselves, “What are the odds that this unknown woman is right and everyone else in the field has a very serious problem?” Even if they don’t know the gender of the person, few people are going to pass on something quite transformative without a lot more reassurances.

    I did once write to the editor of a journal and told him that since everyone else in the field is committed to disagreeing with what I was saying, it was impossible that he would get a positive review. He didn’t. He published it anyway, and he was also wonderfully supportive on another occasion. He thinks my work should/could introduce a new direction in a field. And of course little by litte it gets better. But really even when I get things published, no one reads them. And sometimes my work is attacked and belittled at conferences. No one wants to think through something all over again from the foundations. The comments I get from male graduate students could often drive a sane person wild.

  33. I think it is worth keeping in mind that it takes only a little bit of outreach effort to ensure that a healthy number of women submit papers to a conference, apply for a grant, etc. The program committee for the Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference typically sends emails to a select number of women to let them know that we would especially value submissions from them (with no suggestion of special treatment or anything like that), and this seems to work pretty well. We tend to get lots of papers from women, and all the papers are then reviewed by referees who do not know anything about the identities of the authors. Two year’s ago the eventual gender breakdown among accepted authors was 5 men and 4 women; last year it was 3 men and 6 women.

    Given that such minimal outreach efforts can generate such results, I think we should all be reluctant to justify ongoing gender imbalances merely by saying that very few women submitted or applied. There is usually more that can be done.

  34. [...] a great comment from Ned Markosian buried in the discussion on the Ammonius Foundation thread about how a little bit of outreach or encouragement to female philosophers can go a long way. So to [...]


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