God, Religion, but not women: Update

Update:  Email addresses have been removed at Dr. Nagasawa’s request.

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Do any women do philosophy of religion?  Of course.  And one thing we know of them:  none is  an invited participant at the conference described below.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, at least three things (readers are warmly invited to add to the list or to correct  my entries):

1.  Such conferences perpetuate epistemic injustice by leaving out the women’s voices in the field.

2.  They create cadres of privilege; without access to one such event, women suffer the sort of small disadvantage that adds up  significantly damaged professionally over time, as V. Valian has argued..

3.  They send a very bad message to women students and university administrators at a time when philosophy is becoming marginalized.

 

The Concept of God and the Cognitive Science of Religion Conference

The University of Birmingham, UK

Sunday 14th – Tuesday 16th June 2009

 

Sponsored by the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project at the University of Oxford, funded by the John Templeton Foundation

 Invited speakers: Richard Swinburne (Oxford), Graham Oppy (Monash), T. J. Mawson (Oxford), David Leech (Oxford), Graham Wood (Tasmania), David Efird (York), Klaas Kraay (Ryerson), Robin Le Poidevin (Leeds) 

Please visit the conference website for registration details: http://www.philosophy.bham.ac.uk/events/cogsci.shtml or contact Yujin Nagasawa (Y.Nagasawa@bham.ac.uk)  —

Dr. Yujin Nagasawa

 Department of Philosophy/University of Birmingham/Edgbaston, Birmingham/B15 2T/United Kingdom

http://www.philosophy.bham.ac.uk/staff/nagasawa.shtml

39 thoughts on “God, Religion, but not women: Update

  1. Welcome, Brain W, thanks for stopping by with your cheery news.

    I really appreciated your comments on our reaction to the Choice and Inference blog.

    I wonder about changing tactics soon; is there some way of having a more that piece-meal response?

  2. Hi JJ,

    I don’t know how good an idea this is, but maybe it might be helpful? Is there an internet resource with the following:

    A list of women philosophers that is broken down by fields and subfields (e.g., Ethics, axiology, or Metaphysics, parts and whole), as well as by level of seniority (grad student, assistant, associate, full, etc.), that also has contact information and maybe links to CVs or homepages?

    If there were such a list, it could be consulted when conference-organizing, or whatnot. I suspect that some of the (for want of a better term) exclusionary behavior by some of the conference organizers or blog-organizers or whatnot is the result of not being really aware of how many women work in the relevant field, or if they are aware of it, for some reason that fact isn’t as salient as it should be. Looking at a list like this might help prevent organizers from organizing lopsided conferences, etc.

    I know that if I were organizing a conference, and the conference was looking seriously gender-lopsided, i would want to rectify this pretty quickly — and a resource like this would be really useful.

    If there are already is a website like this — I did a quick google but nothing matched what I had in mind — maybe a good proactive step is getting something like this developed.

    (I have no idea how hard this will be to do. I am pretty dumb when it comes to computers. I can barely comment on blogs.)

    A second proactive step could be making this site more well-known. If there already is such a resource, maybe letting more people know about it by publicizing it here would be good.) As well as encouraging people to keep in mind the large number of women philosophers working in the relevant areas…

    (These sites were among those that came up when I did my google. None of them corresponds to what I have in mind. For one thing, it isn’t easy to search by *area of expertise*, which is what conference organizers will be caring about…

    http://www.women-philosophers.com/Contemporary-women-philosophers.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_philosophers

    ….

    Anyways, i hope this is of some help… maybe it is a dumb idea, but it seems that it couldn’t hurt?

  3. jj:
    I am the organiser of the conference. PLEASE DELETE THE E-MAIL ADDRESSES OF THE TEMPLETON FOUNDATION AND THE RAMSEY CENTRE. They are sponsoring my project but they have nothing to do with the conference programme. If you have complaints about the conference please e-mail me at: Y.Nagasawa@bham.ac.uk.

    I was very keen to invite female philosophers of religion (especially from UK and Europe) who also work in the cognitive science of religion but I just couldn’t find any. Do let me know if there is any. (By the way, if you check our conference programme you can see that there will be one female speaker from USA at our conference.) I won’t be able to invite any more speakers at this point but I can consider their work for an anthology that I will edit after the conference.

    I recently edited another anthology called _New Waves in Philosophy of Religion_, which collects papers by ‘young’ philosophers of religion, where ‘young’ means less than 10 years after PhD. For the volume my co-editor and I were very keen to have contributions by female philosophers of religion. We indeed invited some but they never responded to our invitation.

    So please don’t assume that we are neglecting female philosophers just because you cannot find their names on our list. Please also understand that there are very few female (analytic) philosophers of religion. Make a list if you don’t believe me.

    Again, delete the e-mail address of the people at the Templeton Foundation and the Ramsey Centre. Thank you.

    Yujin

  4. But I actually do think that organisations that fund conferences should be made aware that one of their requirements for funding should be that there’s a reasonable share of women in the event.

  5. hippocampa:

    OK, I take your point.

    However, jj should have been more careful before publishing people’s e-mail addresses here and encouraging readers to contact them. As far as I know, the people at the Ramsey Centre whose e-mail addresses have been published are not directly responsible for funding my project.

    jj should have also contacted me first to find out if the conference is really neglecting women unreasonably.

    (By the way, jj, who are you and what is YOUR e-mail address?)

  6. P.S. I would also like to add the following:

    (i) UK has a very small philosophy of religion community. (Ask any philosopher of religion you know.) I would say there are only about 20 (or less) people in UK who publish in this area actively and, as far as I know, only 2-3 of them are females, none of whom works in the cognitive science of religion.

    (ii) Organising a conference is not so easy– we cannot just invite whoever we want wherever they are. Among the three international keynote speakers we have, only one of them has his full travel costs covered by us because of our limited budget. I don’t know any female analytic philosopher of religion overseas who is also interested in the cognitive science of religion, but even if there is bringing her (or anyone at all) to UK is not so straightforward.

    But, again, I would be very keen to consider for publication papers on the cognitive science of religion by female philosophers of religion if you know any.

  7. Well, are you going to proactively do something about this or not? Professor Nagasawa has offered you a chance to do something, are you going to help or just complain?

  8. Seti: It’s hardly reasonable to expect that jj, or anyone else, is on the web every moment of the day to respond immediately to every concern; you will have to allow more than an hour or two for responses.

    Yujin: Granted it’s difficult to organize conferences, and it’s greatly appreciated that people like you do the work to organize them. But I think you need to consider it from the other side, as well, because this sort of thing happens a lot, with a wide variety of conferences, and the defense when people are asked about it is in virtually every case much like the one you give here. It would be a perfectly reasonable defense, and in your particular case might well be true — but there’s something problematic about the fact that in conference after conference it is always the women whom nobody knows of, and always the women who are too difficult to get, and always the women who end up not on the slate because of the difficulties of organizing a conference. Were it just one or two here and there, no problem. It’s not personal, and you aren’t being singled out, but people are not really unreasonable in being exasperated that it happens again and again.

    Your anthology sounds interesting; perhaps you could submit a call for papers here; there’s a form for doing it that can be reached through the sidebar (go to categories and select ‘contact’).

  9. Dr Nagasawa, thank you for coming to the site and explaining your perspective so clearly. I am sure our readers will consider themselves better informed after they read what you have said.

    I believe members of this blog do not agree on whether we should help to uncover women philosophers for those who feel there are none, or at least none within a certain geographical area. Since philosophy of religion is not my field, I am sure you are as well equipped as I am to uncover the needed names. A very quick search on the web uncovered Marilyn Adams at Oxford; she is certainly a distinguished contributor to philosophy of religion and someone very admired in analytic circles, though I cannot be sure she is still in England. I’d expect you to be much more up on current locations than I am.

    mm – thanks so much for your helpful suggestions. There have been efforts to list women philosophers, but responses to email are always extremely irregular. I will look at the site you uncovered. So many thanks!

    H: I agree, as it usual. Thanks.

  10. And, let me add to what Brandon has said, we need to avoid shifting blame and responsibility onto the person who names a problem. It’s very tempting to try to do that, but it seldom works and it diverts energy away from solving the problem.

    It would be wonderful to consider how to solve the problem of the absence of women, or at least lessen it. I know that after some expressions of dismay to the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, that society has devoted some of its energies to looking into its lack of diversity, and it is trying to come up with some solutions. It would be quite extraordinary if your conference considered the question of why, apparently, women are not easily included in the field.

    It really can’t be lack of talent or interest, but if people don’t realize that, it may be hard to get them to solve the problem.

    BTW, the SPP has a blog, Diversity@SPP, I think, which contains some basic information about how women get excluded from a field, etc.

  11. Brian – it looks like that conference actually has three papers that involve female co-authors, giving a total of 3 out of 17 authors. Still not a great ratio, especially given that none of the solo authors are female, but better than you had initially thought.

  12. jj:

    Again, could you please delete from your post the e-mail addresses of the people at the Ramsey Centre? The centre is not even administrating the funding that I received.

    I agree with you that promoting diversity in the field is important. (If this is relevant at all: I myself is a foreigner from a non-English speaking country in Asia and my wife is also a foreigner from a non-English speaking country in Eastern Europe.)

    However, I don’t think it’s reasonable to publish this kind of blog entry without even contacting the orgainser (me) and learning the background, etc. I also don’t think it’s fair for you to publish e-mail addresses of people that are not even relevant and encourage your readers to send complaints to them, while you don’t even identify yourself or leave your own e-mail address.

    Yujin

    P.S. Marilyn Adams does philosophical theology and miedieval philosophy and she is certainly a prominent scholar in the field. However, I have never heard that the cognitive science of religion is her research interest. Moreover, she is starting her new job in North Carolina from this fall and I don’t even know if she will be in UK when my conference takes place.

  13. Just a quick note:

    I think that there is a very big problem with the lack of women invited to speak at many conferences and I think that the point needs to be made. However, I do think it is relevant however that Dr. Nagasawa was not emailed to confirm details of whether women were invited.

    It is not the case, but it is certainly possible that half of the invited speakers were female but that for various reasons, they declined. Given how many blog readers don’t read the comments, this would give a drastically wrong impression of Dr. Nagasawa’s conference were that the case. These possibilities seem directly relevant to whether we should suggest that the conference is unjustly skewed towards men. The blog post does suggest that the lack of women—in this case—is unjust (in the encouragement to email the sponsers).

    Great blog though, I enjoy it.

    oint that

  14. Mark:

    Because of the limited budget and other constraints I could invite only philosophers in UK (and possibly one in another European country that is close to UK). It would have been unjust if: (i) there had been a female analytic philosopher of religion in these countries who: has research interests in the cognitive science of religion, can attend the conference, and can make a good contribution to the conference AND (ii) I hadn’t invited her on purpose even though I was aware of her existence.

    However, as I said, I don’t know (and obviously no one here knows/wants to tell me) anyone who satisfies these criteria.

    The only active female researchers in analytic philosophy of religion in UK that I know are: Victoria Harrison, Elizabeth Burns and Maria Rosa Antognazza. (..and also Marilyn Adams but see above).

    Harrison will be busy organising her conference in Belgium, which takes place in the same week, Burns and Antognazza work on topics that are not relevant to the conference theme (Burns is an expert on Irish Murdoch and Antognazza on early modern philosophy, especially Leibniz).

    If my only goal had been to promote the diversity of the field I could have forced some female philosophers, African philosophers (are there any in UK?) or Asian philosophers to attend the conference regardless of their expertise and make them give keynote talks on the conference theme. However, that would have simply undermined the whole aim of the conference.

  15. Thanks, Mark, for bringing up these issues. I think that in fact they are very complex and I’m not sure what the final opinion should be. Let me point out, however, that the standard practice in the field appears to be to have largely or entirely men’s conferences, blogs, edited volumes and so on. In light of this, I am puzzled by why it is assumed that people could get a bad impression. (Notice I am not saying this is false.) Similarly, philosophy is replete with practices and beliefs that sustain and perpetuate male dominance. They include the wide-spread opinion that philosophers’ judgments of quality can be made without any bias, and a quite vocal dislike for political correctness. In addition, the conference’s sponsors are largely or entirely male, so it is not clear that they will think an all-male anything is somehow bad.

    We can aim for very small steps in awareness, but the past doesn’t indicate much else happens. Though, as I say at the end, I’m wondering whether a public forum might make a difference.

    There’s a second and perhaps more controversial point. I’m not sure about the idea of emailing someone to confirm something, still less confirming that women were invited. Part of the reason for this is that practices are really so exclusionary, and probably so few people realize that, that the question to be asked is whether they made an adequate effort to invite women. And here again one may well have doubts about whether anyone very much understands “adequate effort.” Think of all the good faith efforts to find a woman for a position that don’t.

    I’ve done lots of the behind the scenes work of talking to publishers, conference organizers, etc, to no effect whatsoever. Perhaps the internet is making available a public forum for voices and concerns that have been nearly silenced or ignored within the field. Could it be that people can happily tolerate a practice but not tolerate a very public description of the practice? That might sound like a charge of hypocrisy, but I think it isn’t. In the background may be instead a matter of awareness of having to overcome the inertia caused by faith in the status quo. Or something else. But the standard practice for dealing with minority complainers is to shoot the messenger, so a profession that instead examinined the message should be admired.

    Enough!

  16. The notion of first contacting people involved seems a bit odd to me. This is not a newspaper, this is a blog.
    This post may be stated a smidgen on the polemic side (hehe jj, I like your style), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, quite the opposite. It sure got the attention of the organiser, and thank you for taking active part in this discussion Yujin. Now if only we can get the attention of the rest of the community :D
    Another point about blogging. Readers of a blog can generally distinguish between blogging and journalism (although, come to think of it, the posters here are generally more accurate than Fox, no?), so, how is it not fair to remark on the lack of women speakers in this conference?
    Also, this is a blog about news (see the header). Suppose the posters on this blog first have to confirm the often painfully overlooked matter of the exclusion of women. I think if I were organising a conference and it got pointed out to me with a please confirm… I might just ignore the e-mail. Or put it at the bottom of the “to do” stack (wait, that is the same, isn’t it?) Or answer that “of course we tried but failed, not our fault”. And then what?
    Nothing! Then this entire discussion wouldn’t have taken place, which would have been a shame, don’t you think?

  17. Professor Nagasawa wrote, above,

    “I was very keen to invite female philosophers of religion (especially from UK and Europe) who also work in the cognitive science of religion but I just couldn’t find any. Do let me know if there is any.”

    The problem is, Professor Nagasawa, what can be done to try to bring some into the field? A conference where there still are none only reinforces the message.

    Perhaps a more positive thing to consider is expanding the topic in some way. For example, I do know of various women who work on cognitive science and the emotions or in fields concerning cognitive science in relation to film, art, and literature. Surely there are potentially fruitful intersections of religion with various of these fields, and a new person could be invited into the dialogue with the existing (putatively all-male) experts in philosophy of religion paired with cognitive science.

    Some resources to consider consulting:
    Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists (Paperback)
    Consciousness, Literature, and the Arts, published by U of Aberystwyth

  18. Calypso:

    I have organised several conferences on wider topics and I had no problem in finding female keynote speakers for them who work actively in relevant areas.

    I really appreciate your constructive suggestion, but I cannot expand the topic of the conference that you are concerned with because it is part of a larger project called ‘Anselmian Perfect Being Theology and the Cognitive Science of Religion’, which is not relevant to film, art, literature, etc.

    My strategy to bring new people into the field is to advertise the conference widely and set reasonable registration fees. I have particularly been trying to encourage students to attend the conference. For students and the unwaged we charge only £15 (approx. US$22), which includes two lunches, and coffee and refreshments for three days. We loose money by having more students, but I think it’s important to attract their attention to cutting-edge research in the new field.

    We have advertised the conference on student message boards throughout the campus, the school newsletter, the college newsletter, the university newsletter and electronic mailing lists in USA, UK and Australasia. There will be two (male) student speakers at the conference and I know there will be a lot more students (both undergraduates and postgraduates) coming to the conference, many of whom are females.

    I agree with you that inviting female keynote speakers is one way of bringing more women into the field, but I don’t think that’s the only way. I don’t even know if that’s the most effective way in every situation.

  19. YN: Having a cheap conference fee is an excellent way of making sure that students can attend a conference. It’s great to hear that you’re doing this. Thanks also for coming over here to discuss the conference with us.

  20. It is very useful to know that Professor Nagasawa has made other efforts to be inclusive. I am grateful for those efforts.

    I think it is perfectly fine to suggest contacting those who funded the conference given that those organizations are listed on the conference web page and the conference was widely advertised. It is already public information.

    In general, I don’t think there is a duty to contact a conference organizer before making a protest. While it may be heartening to know that efforts were made, the bottom line is that women are virtually absent. As others have noted, _this happens all the time_.

    The question for funding agencies is, “How committed are you to this project, given that it does not serve women scholars?” Funders may decide that diversity is not a goal they want to endorse, or that the project is simply so excellent that they are willing to endorse it in spite of a lack of diversity. However, it is important that the question of diversity is explicitly addressed.

    There are ways that scholars who are in fields with very few women can deal with this situation, even if they fail to recruit women scholars. For example, if there are very few women in an area, a conference session could be devoted to equity issues in that area.

    The National Science Foundation regularly funds work in fields where there are very few women. However, there is a Broader Impacts criterion for grant evaluation. It is in researchers’ interests to show that they are making efforts towards increasing diversity.

  21. alphafeminist:

    “I think it is perfectly fine to suggest contacting those who funded the conference given that those organizations are listed on the conference web page and the conference was widely advertised. It is already public information.”

    Yes, but it is not fine to suggest publicly contacting wrong people.

    “In general, I don’t think there is a duty to contact a conference organizer before making a protest. While it may be heartening to know that efforts were made, the bottom line is that women are virtually absent.”

    I don’t know what “virtually absent” means but there will be a female (non-keynote) speaker at my conference. Also, as I said, there will be a lot of other women attending the conference. I don’t think having female keynote speakers is the only way to promote diversity in the field.

    Also, it is not possible to invite female (or male or African or Asian) keynote speakers if there aren’t suitable people available. (And everyone here seems to agree with me that there aren’t suitable female philosophers of religion in UK for my conference.) In such a situation isn’t it important to learn from the conference organiser if other efforts have been made before publishing criticisms?

    “The question for funding agencies is, “How committed are you to this project, given that it does not serve women scholars?” ”

    (i) There aren’t female keynote speakers at my conference
    does not entail:
    (ii) My project does not serve women scholars.

    As I said above, the conference is only part of my larger project. After the conference I am going to publish a monograph and an anthology. In the anthology, as I said many times here, I am very keen to have contributions by female philosphers. (This is much more feasible than briging female keynote speakers to the conference becuase there is no geographical and financial constraints.)

  22. There are a lot of very complex issues here, obviously. But I don’t know if it’s doing any of us any good to continue to debate Yujin’s conference, rather than general issues of how best to go about increasing the representation of women in philosophy. So I’d like to invite us to turn our attention to that more general topic, if we can.

    But I do want to say a thank you to those who have called this issue to our attention and a thank you to Yujin for coming over here and engaging with us. It’s good to hear, Yujin, that you plan to involve more women in your published volume, and to keep conference costs down so more people can participate.

    Perhaps now we could turn– without focusing on Yujin’s conference– to the more general issue of how to increase women’s participation and recognition in philosophy?

  23. I agree completely, Jender. I think it is pointless and boring at this stage to continue to assess past actions,however strongly we may feel about them.

    I would like to thank everyone for a lot of good suggestions, which we might collect somewhere accessible, and Yujin, for his helpful responses. Yujin, let me also suggest that getting the name of the female keynote speaker up on the web soon, if it isn’t already, might be a good idea.

  24. I wonder how lists of names of people working in certain fields are put together. Among my other fields, I do philosophy of religion, and have published in that area (papers only [about seven, I think], not books). I certainly don’t get invited to speak at philosophy of religion conferences.

  25. Dr. Nagasawa: I didn’t mean to suggest that your organizational efforts with respect to this conference were unjust. If it is indeed true (I take your word) that there are no women who work in this area within the feasible proximity, then I think that is you organized a conference on an interesting topic within constraints.

    JJ: I am convinced—for a variety of reasons—that we need to do a lot more to break this male-only tradition. What I worried about with respect to the post is the manner in which we try to do this. There is always the risk that we create animosity and resentment which will cause further obstacles. I’m not suggesting that we should be afraid to say true things, rather I’m suggesting that we need to be very careful to not say false things. I think that given Dr. Nagasawa’s explanation of the dearth of women, it is false that the conference was organized in any way that is unjust. If we’ve got good evidence that there was little or no effort to invite women to the conference, then that deserves a calling out.

    hippocampa: You say that the suggestion that contacting the organizer seems odd to you since this is a blog and not a newspaper. I think that we all should be responsible epistemic agents. That is, in part that we shouldn’t assert something unless we have good evidence for it. Writing something on a blog certainly a way of asserting and in this case it’s not too hard to come up with reasons why the organizational process might not have been unjust. This possibility should give us reason to either check with the organizer or to qualify our claims (E.G. it seems that…, it is unfortunate that…, etc.)

    I think that this blog does a great job of pointing philosophers and other to issues that are VERY relevant and important to the profession. In this, it does a fantastic job. But I worry often that if we don’t do a good job of the pointing, we risk making things worse. One of the reasons Peter Singer is such a good ambassador for various ethical issues is that he has an incredible talent for presenting very persuasive reasons. We can definitely do that here. Because that’s so often done is why I keep reading the blog.

    Best.

  26. One very tricky issue that seems to me in the background here is that of individual blame when we’re dealing with a systemic problem. The nature of the situation as a whole makes me sympathise with the thought expressed by many: “This happens too often! We must protest each instance.” And I do think that’s right. But we also need to remember that some of these instances may genuinely be people who really tried to include women. So as not to discuss Yujin’s conference any further, let’s just take an imaginary conference organiser C. Given the under-representation of women in philosophy, and esp. in particular subfields, it’s plausible that C might be unable find a woman speaker she can afford to invite to her conference who is able to attend it– even if she tries very hard. Indeed, given the small numbers of women it strikes me as likely that there will be many conference organisers like C. And it seems wrong to blame C for this situation. Yet we don’t know for any particular organiser whether they’re like C or whether they don’t care– and we can’t even really find out by asking because very few would respond by saying “I don’t care” even if that’s true. And e do want to call attention to the problem. So I think there are really very tricky issues here regarding moral repsonsibility in the face of systematic problems, and regarding how to try to confront those problems.

    If we can let’s try to continue to discuss this in the abstract case of C rather than focusing on specific people.

  27. Corrected comment: Dyslexia strikes again; thanks Yujin for catching the errors.

    Jender, I’m reluctant to leave the idea that there are no women doing philosophy of religion alone, especially since I just spent some considerable time looking at women in philosophy of religion. Mark B has also raised a question about justice, to which I’d at least like to respond that I probably don’t share his assumptions about the dearth of women.

    But to generalize, let’s be sure we distinguish between there being no or few women and women being invisible. There are more women than get seen, both metaphorically and literally. Women are sometimes said to be particularly attracted to interdisciplinary work; I’m not sure that’s true, but there are often lots of women in other related disciplines whose work is very interesting. And there are also lots of women who have found it easier to publish on historical philosophers, but who have then used that genre to make significant contributions to our understanding of a philosophical topic.

    Now for responsibility: I don’t know quite what to do with the idea that “But we also need to remember that some of these instances may genuinely be people who really tried to include women.” And, the context adds, “but failed to do so.” Yujin, let us note, is not one of these people, since his coference will have a female speaker.
    So I’m not sure why we should assume it is ever done. Have the people searched recent journals, called people at universities to ask about their graduates, tried going to the Philosophers Index? And then failed?

    That’s not to say that I think we shouldn’t act as if it might be possible, but I wonder about seeing it as a live possibility.

  28. jj:

    I am not sure if ‘Yuri’ refers to me but if so I didn’t say that there would be a female keynote speaker at my conference. Maybe you misread what I said in the following:

    “I don’t know what “virtually absent” means but there will be a female (non-keynote) speaker at my conference. Also, as I said, there will be a lot of other women attending the conference. I don’t think having female keynote speakers is the only way to promote diversity in the field.”

    In any case, I think we have discussed enough about my conference. It would be much more helpful for conference organisers to hear general, constructive suggestions. For example, the idea of creating a list of female philosophers with their areas of research, which some people mentioned above, could be useful.

  29. you know, JJ, those additional ways of finding women speakers (asking grad programmes about recent PhDs, searching through the philosophers’ index) hadn’t occurred to me, though I really think they should have. And I’ll bet you’re right that they don’t occur to many people. An additional thought: keynote speakers are generally expected to be people who are highly visible. But maybe that thought needs revision– in the face of systematic invisibility of women, having women keynotes may require having little-known speakers as keynotes. Now, highly visible keynotes are often important to getting attendees at a conference, but perhaps people should be slip in some lesser known keynotes as well.

    I’m thinking we should do a post on “what to do if you’re having trouble finding women for your conference/book”.

  30. This is surely also connected to the issue of publication – after all, it’s by reading published papers that we become familiar with the people doing work in a field. I’m sure we’ve blogged on this elsewhere, but here’s a summary in the recent APA Committee on the Status of Women report:

    “Sally Haslanger’s recent study of publication in seven top, mostly non-specialized, philosophy journals from 2002-2007 (Haslanger, 2008) gives reason for serious concern about the participation of both women and feminist approaches in the philosophy profession. (These journals are Ethics, Journal of Philosophy, Mind, Nous, Philosophical Review, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research and Philosophy and Public Affairs.) The average number of articles by women was 12.36% and the average number of articles with feminist content was 2.36%. Interpretation of this data should take into account that several of these journals do not use an anonymous review process.”
    http://www.apaonline.org/governance/committees/women/0708EmploymentStudy.aspx

    If women aren’t represented in the “top” journals (or let’s say, journals that most people in the field check the contents of regularly) at the same rate that they are employed, that must contribute significantly to the poor rate of representation on conference programmes. So one of the solutions must be about publishing – I guess (a) anonymous review processes and (b) some sort of mentoring, perhaps online – would be a good start. (I know, don’t ask me how to make that happen!)

    It’s also been mentioned that women might have been invited to conferences but declined. Of course we’ve no idea whether they’re more likely to decline than men, but provision for childcare might help, another thing we’ve discussed elsewhere…

  31. Jender, I expect they’d leap to your mind if you felt you had to find a woman and couldn’t think off hand of any. Perhaps we should try to set up a library of sorts. We might think of using a second word press blog just to post things about advancing women in the profession. It could just be a repository and needed allow comments, but could of course.

    Heg, Virginia Valian, if I am remembering her work correctly, maintains that almost all academic fields have men doing better than women; she thinks this shows how the small bits of discrimination amount to a pretty significant loss over a career. I think I’ve mentioned before that a friend of mine who was a grad director said the field of grad applications was extremely good and he made a point of choosing 50% women, but other comparable schools with access to the same pool often admitted only men. But if that’s their attitude, you know the selection is starting even earlier.

  32. Another conference to analyze: PSA

    At the last Philosophy of Science meeting about 22% of the names on the program were women (including moderators and chairs). That number drops a few points if we exclude moderators from the analysis. Also, several prominent women appear several times on the program but this is also true for prominent men.

    The program committee did a pretty good job because the number of women speakers selected was proportionate to the number of women who submitted papers.

    But, a little more than half of those women were represented in workshops and symposia that focused on the social and public policy aspects of philosophy of science (climate change, social epistemology, values in science,…). At this meeting at least, these are the areas where most of the women in the organization were doing their work. Another way of looking at this statistic is that if we only include the ‘hard’ philosophy of science less than 10 % of the contributors are women. I am not keen on this distinction, but in the field there is sort of a break between folks working on physics/biology/ causation/inference and those doing work that is focused on social relevance and justice issues in science and society. The later is where we find many women and very few men.

    So, two things come to mind. One, increasing the proportion of women in the field could result in changing the face of the discipline in terms of the kinds of topics and questions that get addressed. Focusing on this kind of change can be a way to increase the representation of women.

    Two, women are still very underrepresented in traditional/hard/ what gets called ‘rigorous’ areas in the philosophy of science and it would be interesting to find out why that is. If you only went to sessions on inference or physics or natural selection, you would run into very few women. There are excellent women working in all of these areas, and they were on the program, but overall the representation is very low.

    I hypothesize that one reason for resistance to efforts to include women comes from disciplining the boundaries of the profession. At least in philosophy of science, the professionally praiseworthy work, and I would bet the kind of work that gets done at the most prestigious schools (I need data here and my informal sample comes from Canada and the US) happens in areas where women are most underrepresented. Protecting the purity and integrity of the subject matter seems to have the consequence of excluding women (which may or may not be epiphenomenal).

  33. My program sent an MA student to one of the Leiter highly ranked phd programs. She was interested in feminist philosophy and phil of logic/maths. Despite the fact that the school had 2 or 3 feminist/female faculty, she found the grad school horribly sexist and hostile to women. She’s left philosophy, I think. Another loss for ‘hard philosophy.’ It may be that women get more hostility if they’re more interested in the men’s field from the male grad students. Not necessarily because the guys are worried, of course; they could easily pick up ideas of purity from the undergrad programs and bring it with them.

    Of course, it may also be that women are pushed into the social relevant stuff, rather as women have been pushed into history of philosophy. I have typically been interested in ‘hard philosophy,’ but I ended up publishing first in history of philosophy because no one would give much credence to my work in other fields. In fact, until very recently I feel I’ve typically been treated like the mad woman who escaped from the attic. Women saying things people can’t already see as familiar are assumed, in my experience, at best simply not to understand. At least in the “less hard” areas there are enough women that some of them will give unfamiliar ideas from women a fair hearing.

  34. Actually, I didn’t mean that to end on such an autobio note. I wish we had money in philosophy to intervene. There’s a recent offer of grants for women in cogsci that supports their going to a major conference on the condition that they set up a networking plan with senior researchers. That’s a really interesting idea.

  35. I think your autobiographical note is helpful. (I also am coming to see that attics might be hot beds of excellent and creative work. We could sponsor a conference “Philosophy from the attic.)

    It made me think of Marilyn Frye’s essay “A Note on Anger.”

    She writes,” A woman’s anger on another’s behalf is far more likely to get uptake, and even acceptance, than her anger on her own behalf.” Here gender schema’s step in. A woman doing philosophy that focuses on justice and social values fits with many notions of femininity. Women arguing about causation seem nutty, women arguing for protecting children from environmental pollutants, well that is what we ought to do. We are intelligible in that role, speaking from those kinds of scripts.

    Frye goes on to write ” To expand the scope of one’s intelligible anger is to change one’s place in the universe, to change another’s concept of what one is, to become something different in that social and collective scheme which determines the limits of the intelligible.” And later “the discovery of what baffles is the discovery of some aspect of what the man thinks a woman is.”

    Maybe women doing ‘hard’ philosophy are baffling.

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