We’ve talked before about the tricky issues that arise when the well-meaning, gender-aware male philosophers triy to figure out how to be an ally to women in the profession. As a case in point, a male philosopher writes:
I’m teaching a grad seminar this semester made up of 9 men and 1 woman. I’ve noticed already that the woman tends to talk a lot less than most of the men and to be much more hesitant about putting forward ideas in class. I don’t want to let the men dominate the discussion, and I want to make sure the woman feels that the atmosphere in the class is safe and welcoming for her. But I really don’t know how to go about it. I worry that if I make special effort to ask her for her opinion or encourage her when she speaks, she’ll feel like I’m singling her out or coddling her – which could of course have exactly the opposite effect of the one I intend.
I’m sure a lot of philosophy professors – male and female – have found themselves in similar situations. What’s a well-intentioned professor to do?