7 thoughts on “More from Leiter on gender imbalance in the profession

  1. It would surprise me if the problem were just a matter of describing philosophy as being about “argument” rather than “reasoning.” Not only does this seem like an incredibly flimsy reason for one to reject philosophy, but speaking as a senior undergraduate who has studied philosophy at three different schools (Amherst, Mt. Holyoke and the University of Minnesota), I have no memory of any professor describing the discipline this way in the first place.

  2. Really? Still? “Women tend, on average, to be less aggressive and competitive than men, and to be more inclined to cooperation” gets stated as a fact that doesn’t even bear defending? How many times have we been around this?

    The poor student who had to watch me and one of my female colleagues have it out and survive our questioning during his prospectus defense yesterday would beg to differ.

    (I am not actually making that bad anecdotal argument, but please, I am sooooo sick of this claim and the ensuing discussions of it… Enough already!)

  3. Rachel McKinney, Evelyn Brister, and I noticed the pattern the Leiter post talks about two years ago.

    So maybe in two years mainstream philosophers will realize `boys are aggressive and girls are deferential’ is a bad explanation of that pattern?

  4. Noumena, which pattern? That the dearth of women in philosophy starts with undergrads? I think undergrad women have noticed that pattern for a long time.

  5. I find a lot of the discussion of the gender disparity problem irritating/disappointing/frustrating. It’s cute and even funny to see a group of philosophers try to figure out more or less a priori what’s gone wrong with a printer. Even people who see that hypotheses have to be tested don’t seem to think that empirical knowledge is required for generating good hypotheses.

    But the situation of women in philosophy is very different. There are very serious problems of justice – in the recognition of women’s work, in women getting adequate ressources to develop it and in women getting access to all the perks.

    I don’t see anything funny at all to find that a number of members of the majority group haven’t a clue about how to study the effects of their behavior. Still less are they aware of the many studies of academia that have been done.

  6. Not just that the underrepresentation problem starts with undergrads, but that the gender ratio doesn’t change much between Bachelor’s and Ph.D.s. In other words, that the grad school stage of the career trajectory isn’t much of a problem, compared to the undergrad stage and the professorial stages.

    Australian philosophers, interestingly, appear to have the opposite problem: roughly half of the students in their senior-level undergrad courses are women, but less than 40% of their Ph.D. students. They have a serious attrition problem among their female grad students.

  7. The following comment was posted by Eyja M. Brynjarsdóttir, and graciously conceded by Carruthers to be a pretty clear refutation of his hypothesis:

    It seems to me that Carruther’s point *is* about the linguistic terms ‘argument’, ‘argue’, etc. and the things people associate with them. At least that’s what his proposed experiment (with using ‘reasons’ instead of ‘arguments’) suggests. And I believe Karen’s response to that is spot on. Anglocentrism is a subtle and pesky creature.

    I happen to live in a linguistic community (Iceland) where the word for an argument in the philosophical/logical sense is strongly tied to rationality and reasoning whereas the kind of argument children don’t like their parents to have (or the kind you see politicians having on tv) is described by a very different word. So you might say that the experiment has already been conducted here. I’m sad to report that the proportion of women in philosophy is no higher here. It’s difficult to draw statistical conclusions from such a small population (there are about 1000 Americans for each Icelander), but the proportion of female undergraduate philosophy students at the University of Iceland is around 30% in introductory classes and lower for those graduating with a major in philosophy (unfortunately I don’t have the numbers for those).

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