4 thoughts on “Where’s Philosophy? Oh, right. Down near the bottom.

  1. To understand the causes for this, it might be interesting to consider qualitative data. My sister is working on a PhD in theoretical medium energy physics, a very male-oriented department. But (and I must say this to my chagrin, as our profession does not come out very favorably), at her department they are putting a lot of effort to attract more women in their PhD program, and to keep women in afterwards.
    My sister was approached by her advisor after he read (and was impressed) by her master’s thesis. He has encouraged her to try to get more women undergraduates to continue working in the field because (his words) “we need qualified people for our discipline, and if we lose the women, we lose half of our potential brilliant candidates already on beforehand”. In this department, they recently hired a woman (mother of, I think, three children, and former postdoc) as a permanent professor. I expect that the graph on the picture will change dramatically over the next few years for physics, but alas, I fear this will not happen in philosophy.
    In my own department, the number of women working on a PhD, the number of postdocs, and the number of women professors has even gone down compared to 2008. We are not putting enough effort into it. We are losing women because of the perceived maleness of the discipline. I am the only of two (untenured and non-tenure track) female postdocs who lecture to undergraduates (on a total of about 30 professors and about 90 postdocs). This provides little incentive to my female undergraduates to pursue a career in philosophy.
    To give another example: I have a lot of friends in developmental psychology, a field where the most notorious shapers of the field are women (think of Liz Spelke, Deborah Kelemen, Renée Baillargeon etc., etc.). There are a lot of female doctoral students in this field. One PhD student in developmental psychology told me “I was doubting between experimental and developmental psychology, but I chose developmental, because I feel that in this field, women can really advance”. This, according to me, is the bottom line. More visibility of women as lecturers, or as role models in general, is absolutely essential. Without this, we will continue to lose half of the qualified candidates.
    (I cross-posted this comment to New Apps)

  2. Linguistics is another field where women have been leaders. So much for women not being able to do the theory.

  3. I decided to leave academia in part because I really dislike the maleness of our field. I’m at the finish line of my PhD trajectory at a good program. Male students in our virtually all-male department/program get a lot of support and are generally treated like “promising sons”. I always felt like an unwanted outsider who works on “soft” topics and never did manage to find a network of women friends in philosophy at other universities. I now completely understand why someone would not want to pursue philosophy because it is a “boys club.” So, yeah, I’m getting out.

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