11 thoughts on “Women at the joint UK session

  1. Obviously, it’s not ideal. But nor is the profession, and it’s better than all those all-male conferences. Also, having been on the Aristotelian Society, I can report that they’ve been explicitly worrying about the gender breakdown of speakers for quite a while. I was pleasantly surprised to find this being raised as a matter of course in discussions of who to invite, and universally accepted. Sometime later, I tried to find out what had convinced them they should do this, and nobody I asked could remember when it started. That actually quite surprises me, given the general lack of attention to these issues in philosophy. They’ve also been enthusiastic supporters of the idea of SWIP having a panel at the conference.

  2. They can’t find enough UK women to invite, they should try inviting more women from the US and Canada if they want to up their percentages. I don’t get the sense that a lot of such invitations are being issued.

  3. Or of course, from Europe and other countries. I assume the Society already invites as many women from Europe as possible, and I don’t know how easy it would be to get people from, say, Australia to come. But the US/CA pool seems like an obvious place to fish.

  4. Jenny, you are right that this is certainly better than the all-male conferences; it is very cheering to know the question of gender representation is out in the open.

    anon metaphysician: the problem cannot be that they can’t find enough UK women. There are MANY excellent women phils in the UK, with a very good representation of main line analytic phils among them.

    Mark Lance in an earlier discussion suggested something about how the issues to be discussed are framed; he thought some framing can fit more women. I don’t want to endorse that – I just haven’t thought enough about it – but I wonder if something like that could be a factor. E.g., the dominant male publications are leading to a framing that suggests – guess what! – the dominant male philosophers.

  5. Let me just stress, given what I said above, that I am not in the UK. Sigh. So I can’t be one of those excellent women I am praising.

  6. Okay, I have to share this somewhere and this post seems somewhat appropriate. I’ve returned to school in philosophy after working in the business world for 10 or so years. Last night was my first graduate seminar on Philosophy of the Mind. There are 25 students in this class. 20 are men. 5 are women. Argh! I don’t recall this kind of disparity from my statistics or econometrics classes – you know, those other classes where I’d expect a gender disparity. In fact, my statistics heavy department is more balanced (though further up the hierarchy of the company it’s rather white and male). Oh, the number of female authors on the syllabus: 0.

    I know I know. Having read this blog for years – including posts like these – I should’ve expected this. But it’s still rather shocking when reality hits.

  7. From what I can tell, the 16% rate suggests that either (1) there are female philosophers in the UK that should have been invited by the Society to present but were not, or (2) the UK pool isn’t big enough to get enough female speakers. (RE (2): Perhaps a large percentage of female invitees said “no”?) Either way, this is a problem. If there is a real commitment to upping the percentage of women speaking at the conference, either invite more UK women (the solution to (1)) or bend the rules to relax the UK commitment in the interest of resolving the problem (the solution to (2)).

    it’s great that Society members are talking about the problem, but action and improved percentages are what really matter. I’m not satisfied merely with good intentions.

  8. Sorry to be so late to the party, but I thought I might be interesting to look at the figures for the preceding ten years:

    2009: 38%
    2008: 27%
    2007: 18%
    2006: 25% (23%)
    2005: 23%
    2004: 18%
    2003: 15% (14%).
    2002: 8%
    2001: 8%
    2000: 13%

    (More detail below.)

    Reading down the lists in order to compile this, it became clear that the speakers are drawn from a rather narrow pool. There are a few names (male and female) that crop up again and again. There are large areas of the discipline entirely unrepresented.

    This is, of course, because the plenary sessions are by invitation.

    Here are two suggestions:

    – press the Joint Session to select its papers entirely by anonymous peer review of submissions sent in response to a call for papers.

    – ignore the Joint Session altogether; it regularly descends into showboating and stag-fighting anyway.


    2009: 13 speakers; 5 women; keynote man.
    2008: 11 speakers; 3 women; keynote woman.
    2007: 11 speakers; 2 women; keynote man.
    2006: 12 papers (13 authors); 3 women; keynote man.
    2005: 13 papers; 3 women; keynote man.
    2004: 11 speakers; 2 women; keynote woman.
    2003: 13 papers (14 speakers); 2 women; keynote woman.
    2002: 13 speakers; 1 woman; keynote man.
    2001: 12 speakers; 1 woman; keynote man.
    2000: 15 speakers; 2 women; keynote woman.

    NB: all papers are single-authored except for one paper in 2003 and one in 2006.

    Percentages given at the top of this post are rounded figures for papers, with percentage of authors given in brackets where this differs.


  9. JW: Thanks so much for your efforts here. We should look at 2009 and see why there were 5 (five!!) women invited to give papers. Otherwise, there’s a dreary sameness to the 1-3.

  10. As someone who appears twice, it seems worth noting that this isn’t always what it looks like– organisers saying “Hey, let’s invite Jenny again.” The papers come in pairs, with the second being a reply (of same length) to the first one. Both times that I was invited, it was as giver of reply. And in both cases, it was because the person I was replying to requested me.

    Now, as to the selection of the first paper-giver, it’s actually kind of interesting that they use a pretty good technique from the implicit bias standpoint: they give everyone on the committee an alphabetical list of all UK philosophers with notations regarding which have already done papers and when. This should in theory help with the problem of only certain names (or kinds of people) leaping to mind. That it doesn’t seem to have done all that much is interesting.

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