APA-funded investigation of gender gap in philosophy

It is well known that philosophy lags behind all the other humanities, most of the social sciences, and many of the sciences in its gender diversity. Current estimates indicate that women account for around 20% (+ 3%) of philosophers, from graduate students to full professors. There is much less agreement about why the numbers are so low, although untested hypotheses abound.

But while philosophers are very good at generating hypotheses, they have no particular expertise in collecting and analyzing empirical data to test them, especially regarding complex social phenomena such as a gender gap. The Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SPP) is in a unique position to investigate the reason(s) for the gap because it is a cross-disciplinary professional organization whose membership includes psychologists who have the appropriate training for investigating this issue. Independently, the SPP has had an ongoing interest in gender diversity due to the severity of the gap in philosophy of mind and related areas in particular, and has an active diversity committee composed of philosophers and psychologists. The APA’s Committee on the Status of Women has been very active within the APA regarding information on or related to women philosophers (including graduate students). The focus of this project would be to understand the reasons for the gender gap itself.

Our proposal is to use this grant as seed money to develop an empirical study of the gap. The actual study would require further grant money, which we would seek from the NEH, the AAUW, and other sources we are able to identify. The project also has the strong support of the officers and executive committee members of the SPP, who will endeavor to find ways for the SPP to contribute financially within the constraints of its very limited resources.

For more, go here.  (Thanks, L!)

French feminists protest sexist defenses of DSK

You wouldn’t know it from the surpassingly silent American press, but more than 15,000 have signed the petition published by French feminists protesting the overt sexism and misogyny in commentary and journalism coverage of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest.  Excellent!  (In typical fashion, the U.S. press seems absorbed with the accused man, and as far as I can tell pays little or no attention to surging activity in social justice movements on behalf of a female victim, because y’know, feminism is so complicated compared to covering a colourful, masculine individual.)

I am stirred to read the statement from the feminist groups’ petition: 

“We do not know what happened in New York, Saturday May 14, but we know what has been happening in France in the past week. We are witnessing a sudden rise of sexist and reactionary reflexes, so quick to surface among part of the French elite,” the groups said on Le Monde’s website.

 The comments against which they react are sickening.  Rape survivors, brace yourselves, as the following are a bit hard to read:

 “Why all the fuss? It’s merely a bit of hanky-panky with the help,” said Jean-François Kahn, the crusading editor of the Left-wing Marianne weekly. Jack Lang, a law don famous for having been François Mitterrand’s high-profile, graffiti-loving, diversity-fostering Culture Minister, dismissed it all rather infelicitously as an “overblown” affair: “Really, nobody died in that hotel room.”

(From the excellent column in The Telegraph, highly recommended.)

Lang has since apologized for the remark, as did commentator and leftist-nationalist activist, Jean-François Kahn (described as a close friend of the accused,) “who said the allegations amounted to no more than a “troussage de domestique” (literally, stripping or having casual, forced sex with a servant),” according to The Independent:

Another friend of DSK, the Socialist Euro MP Gilles Savary, suggested that the ex-IMF chief might have been the victim of a “cultural” gulf between France and the U.S.  Mr Strauss-Kahn, he said, was a “libertine” who enjoyed the “pleasures of the flesh” but this was not tolerated in a “puritan America, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism”.

Mr Savary has not yet apologised for calling an alleged attempted rape “pleasures of the flesh”.

 …The petition was drawn up by the groups “Osez le feminisme!” (dare to be feminist!), “La Barbe” (the beard) and Paroles de Femmes (women’s words). It was signed by female celebrities including the TV presenters Christine Ockrent and Audrey Pulvar, the actress and comedian, Florence Foresti and the writer, Florence Montreynaud.

I am thrilled that the French feminist groups who formed the petition call out the overt sexism in the French press coverage.  Frankly, though, I find it disappointingly un-feminist of North American journalism to observe such silence in response to feminist political movement.

Elouise Cobell, Moral Hero

Elouise Cobell is the lead plaintiff in the largest class action law suit ever filed against the U.S. government (filed in 1996). Representing over 500,000 Native Americans, Cobell reasonably argued that the U.S. government owed Native Americans hundreds of billions of dollars. In late 2010, Cobell settled for $3.4 billion to provide at least some recompense to the older Native Americans who were sadly dying every day without receiving any justice in this regard.

In 1887, the U.S. government tried to break up Native American Nations/Tribes by dividing tribal owned land into individual Indian accounts, and/or trust funds, for which the U.S. government supposedly served as trustee. While serving as treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation Indian Tribe (and building the Blackfeet National Bank, which turned into the Native American Bank and is a marvelous story in its own right), Cobell noticed how clearly the U.S. government continually failed to serve as minimally responsible trustees, in some cases stealing funds themselves, in other cases leasing Indian property to corporations and allowing the corporations to steal Indian funds, and in most all cases generally mismanaging the Indian accounts/trust funds in the most egregious ways. After much stonewalling and criminal defiance from Washington D.C., Cobell filed what became the largest class action ever against the U.S. government.

Here is a promotional video clip for the documentary “Cobell v.” (formerly titled, “Broken Promises”)

Here is a concise and slightly apposite press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Here is the official website for the settlement

Below are four pieces covering this matter from Mother Jones:

Elouise Cobell’s Bittersweet Victory, 12/8/2009

Cobell, Native Leaders Reject Bush Proposal, Seek Resolution From Congress, 3/29/2007

Bush Administration Proposes Pennies On the Dollar In Settlement To Indians, 3/9/2007

Accounting Coup, 9,10/2005

Below are four pieces covering this matter from Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:

Federal Judge Rules US Government Owes Group of Native Americans $455 Million for Unpaid Royalties on Drilling for Oil and Gas, 8/12/2008

Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization: A Celebration of Victories, Rights and Cultures, 11/23/2006

Indian Leaders Offer to Settle Largest Class Action Lawsuit Against Federal Government in U.S. History, 6/24/2005

“The Indian Enron”? Hundreds of Boxes of Documents Destroyed, Charges of Contempt of Court, Billions of Dollars at Stake, Millions Paid to Arthur Anderson: Native Americans Sue the U.S. Government, 5/29/2002

Elouise Cobell is currently the Executive Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation.

She is now recovering from cancer treatment. Let us all please wish her well.

[A version of the above is cross-posted at https://sites.google.com/site/davidslutsky/home/moral-heroes]

Teaching about stereotype threat

On this blog and elsewhere, there have been lots of discussions of the high likelihood that women face stereotype threat in philosophy classes, which is likely to be especially strong in male-dominated, logic-y areas like metaphysics, language, logic, phil maths, etc. There’s also been discussion of what to do. And one frequently raised concern has been that teaching about stereotype threat could heighten stereotype threat. After all, it makes women students more aware of their gender and also of the maleness of the subject– both factors that could help to produce a threat-provoking situation. It turns out that psychologists have studied this with women and maths. And– good news!– teaching about stereotype threat at least sometimes *eliminates* it. It may be important that the form this teaching takes is that of giving students an “external” (to them) explanation for stress they may be experiencing: “It’s important to keep in mind that if you are feeling anxious while taking this test, this anxiety could be the result of these negative stereotypes that are widely known in scoiety and have nothing to do with your actual ability to do well on the test”.* (Said after first explaining about stereotype threat.)

We tested whether informing women about stereotype threat is a useful intervention to improve their performance in a threatening testing situation. Men and women completed difficult math problems described either as a problem-solving task or as a math test. In a third (teaching-intervention) condition, the test was also described as a math test, but participants were additionally informed that stereotype threat could interfere with women’s math performance. Results showed that women performed worse than men when the problems were described as a math test (and stereotype threat was not discussed), but did not differ from men in the problem-solving condition or in the condition in which they learned about stereotype threat. For women, attributing anxiety to gender stereotypes was associated with lower performance in the math-test condition but improved performance in the teaching-intervention condition. The results suggest that teaching about stereotype threat might offer a practical means of reducing its detrimental effects.

For more, go here.

*It seems that giving students an external explanation for anxiety can work quite generally to combat stereotype threat: telling them (falsely) that there’s a subliminal noise in the room that they might find unsettling is equally effective, though more pedagogically dubious.