The women are counting. We came out of sessions packed with white men invited to speak on topics on which women have a lot to say. We noticed edited publications which – no surprise here – had a much smaller proportion of women than are actually in the field, even the specific field. We discussed how many very bright women are at institutions that don’t match their considerable merits.
The program as a whole merits more attention, though, than I’ve yet been able to give it. There may have been more women on it than has been usual; there were certainly many more than there would have been 20 years ago.
So have things changed for women in philosophy? As one wise woman noted, many young women today in fine graduate schools may have a sense of entitlement that simply was not there until recently. But she had noticed, as others have, that though the realization that there can be very talented women in philosophy appears to have been embraced, it pretty much only applies to young women, not us middle-agers. I had thought this was one of those quirky failures to generalize. That is, if the word went out in 1990 that women could do philosophy, the guys mistakenly thought this was about women graduating in 1990 and afterwards. But she had the better explanation: We don’t count because we’re not sexy.
So we’ll see. It’s been a cliche in the sciences that many young women think they have an equal chance until they get to tenure. Then reality sets in, possibly along with one’s getting to “a certain age.” In later discussions at the APA, women pointed out that so much philosophy is done in liberal arts colleges, and the brightest women may survive happily there, even if research institutions consume the young.
So: Interesting hypotheses; it’s a bit like watching the lions and the Christians. We should do more than hope that young women have better odds for developing nationally recognized careers than earlier generations of women have had. Let’s take some action, at least to the point of mentoring where we can.