Just how few women are there in philosophy?

Kate Norlock sent me some statistics on this, which she’s prepared for the APA Committee on the Status of Women.

Roughly, among full-time instructional faculty, women are 16.6% of the 13,000 total full-time philosophy faculty (that is, 2,158), and 26% of the 10,000 part-time instructors (that is, 2,600). In other words, women are 4,758 of the 23,000 or so: 20.69%.

That’s right: only 17% of full-time faculty. So that 21% figure we’ve heard so much– which is still true for *all* faculty– kind of makes things look better than they are.

Thanks, Kate!

19 thoughts on “Just how few women are there in philosophy?

  1. Good point. To add to it, I think it is also crucial to distinguish between women faculty members being in tenured positions vs untenured positions in philosophy.

    I have observed the following trend among some philosophy depts:
    — Hire men and women as tenure-track,
    — Promote men to tenure disproportionately (or, even, exclusively, in some philosophy depts)
    — Fill the slot open from denying tenure to woman with another woman
    — Boast that they have hired more women than men (which is true: for, if you hire a man and a woman in an untenured tt slot, then tenure the man and not the woman, and keep periodically hiring a woman into a recurring open non-tenured position but not tenuring them at the same rate, you will have several times as many female hires, though the man has been favored and the women have been disfavored. )
    — Remedy gender ratio issues by giving women who are partners of tenured male faculty full time but untenured positions (full time teaching professor, full time research professor).

    Hiring statistics can be very misleading. Not distinguishing between tenured and untenured positions can be very misleading, too. I really think that, in academia, tenure = power and that that is going to be where the resistance is greatest.

    I don’t know how far we’ve come in philosophy from how the situation was for woman academics in general in the days when Catherine Bateson was a dean at Amherst. One of her tasks was to comment on the files of those who had been denied tenure. Here is what she said in an interview:
    “Now the negative side of it is that Amherst College had just become coeducational, and department after department had chewed up and spit out the women they had hired for faculty positions. I was in many ways caught between senior members of the faculty who didn’t welcome women, particularly not in positions of authority, and the women who thought everything should be solved for them overnight, which it wasn’t going to be. That was a very stressful position.” — http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bateson_crossing/bateson_p3.html

    So, among the men and women who are tenured, I think it would also be very revealing to somehow get the percentage of men who had to fight for it (i.e., appeal a negative vote at some point in the process) vs the women who had to do so. When i was denied tenure, lots and lots of tenured women in various fields volunteered to me, sometimes confidentially, how they had had to appeal and argue for themselves, whereas men who had equal or fewer accomplishments had not.

    The other question I’d like to see answered is how the tenured women philosophers are distributed wrt PhD-granting philosophy depts vs others.

    This is all just meant to reinforce the point made in your post, that the statistics make things look a lot better than they are.

  2. One thing I might note about the remarks about women “getting stuck at the associate level” — the division into assistant and associate professors doesn’t address the question of attaining tenure, in case some readers thought it did. The title of “Associate professor” does _not_ imply the person has tenure!!! I know of many people with Associate in their title who do _not_ have tenure, and many of them are women.

    Regarding the comments about the reliability of the data in Zalta’s post, it occurs to me that, thanks to the Leiter report, the problem of getting reliable data about percentage of women acc to rank can be solved without too much additional work, for the Leiter report contains up-to-date faculty lists for each department.

    Working from the detail in the Leiter report, the information can also be further segregated, into tenured and untenured (keeping in mind “associate” doesn’t mean tenured.)

    This would be better than speculating on the data that are not known to be reliable. Rumors can harm; better to get the data. There is still one obstacle in the way, though: there are women who hide the fact that they do not have tenure, and would not like it to be generally known that they aren’t tenured. I don’t know what to do about that.

  3. So sorry; I typed “Zalta” when I meant to type “Zach” in my previous post. (After the “Za. . “, some physiological analogue of autofill took over!)

  4. If the source of the data that Leiter gives is accurate, this is employment data from 2003; it’s the same dataset I used.

  5. Thanks, that is nice to have, too.

    However, I think you misunderstood me. I wrote:

    “. . .the Leiter report contains up-to-date faculty lists for each department. Working from the detail in the Leiter report. . .”

    I was referring to _generating_ data from the _faculty lists_ that are updated every time Leiter does a ranking. If you look at the Leiter report, you will see a link to something called “Faculty Lists” for each department individually, by name. I’m talking about _generating_ new data from them. So, that would be different from “employment data from 2003”, since it would be generated from information collected very recently. It is additional work, yes, but do you see what I am suggesting is possible?

  6. I don’t see how it’s possible to do this realistically. The faculty lists on the Leiter Report don’t list sex or rank or tenure status. I don’t think you’ll be able to reliably research that, plus it would involve significant amount of work. But more importantly, you only have faculty lists for 50 out of he thousands of post-secondary institutions, so even if you’d find someone to do it, you’d only get the numbers for the top 50 PhD granting philosophy departments, also not very reliable or representative.

  7. Thanks for the post and comments, glad to see the information shared. Indeed, Richard Zach is right, and the full report I wrote to the CSW explains that the NCES data is from the same data pool as the report I wrote five years ago, so this should not be taken to be new data so much as an update that philosophy was sorted separately in the more recent Digests. (In the past, data usually lumped philosophy with history or with religious studies.)

    Note too that this data has a wide error margin and is drawn from NSOPFs that are a decade old. In other words, I consider my own update to further advance reasons for thinking that the APA really must accellerate its own efforts to collect accurate and timely data! The further questions raised are all the more reason.

  8. I checked the actual data and the survey only shows that the percentage of women among female full-time philosophy faculty (2003, in the US) is somewhere between 9.3 and 23.0, 16.2 plus/minus 1.96 times standard error of 3.49.

  9. It may be interesting not just to look at tenured women, but also at the other phases in the academic pipeline. For example, from my own institution (European fairly large philosophy department), we have the following numbers;
    In 2008, 36 % of PhD candidates were women. In 2009, this had dropped to 28 %.
    In 2008 27 % of postdoctoral fellows were women, in 2009, this had dropped to 23 %
    In 2008, 1 out of 31 professor was a woman. In 2009 (after her untimely death), this had dropped to 0 out of 31 (she was not replaced, and all new hires were men).
    I’m wondering if there might not be a systemic problem here. A lot of the undergraduate students I teach are women (a bit less than 50 %), but few of them go on to pursue PhDs. Given that they hardly have any women teachers, this may not be surprising.
    Anecdotally, I have known disproportionately many women with a PhD in philosophy to give up philosophy for highschool teaching or an administrative position, because they were not as well supported as some of their male colleagues.

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