Women, grade sensitivity, and major selection

Women May Be Underrepresented in STEM Because They’re Too Concerned With Grades: “Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin wanted to know why only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics in the United States are awarded to women. So she started studying the academic records of students at one anonymous research institute and found that women who receive A’s in an introductory economics course were actually more likely than men with A’s to go on to choose economics as their major. But women who received poorer grades were much less likely to pursue the major than men were. Starting at the A-minus level, women jump ship to other majors, but men stick around. Men who receive B’s are just as likely as male A students to elect an econ major, but female A students are twice as likely as B students to major in econ. By the time you reach the C students, men are about four times as likely as women to major in the discipline.”

Read the rest here.

In a previous blog post, Leaving the Sciences (and maybe Philosophy too), on a New York Times piece, Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard) I wondered if that same phenomena was affecting philosophy enrollments. Both pieces cite the same piece of research by Ben Ost. Ost’s study, “The Role of Peers and Grades in Determining Major Persistence in the Sciences” is here. Ost’s abstract says, “In both the physical and life sciences, I find evidence that students are “pulled away” by their high grades in non-science courses and “pushed out” by their low grades in their major field. In the physical sciences, females are found to be more responsive to grades than males, consistent with psychological theories of stereotype vulnerability.”

I wrote in the old post, “I haven’t read through all of Ost’s paper yet but I did find myself wondering about Philosophy. Philosophers often boast about being tough graders and I think that we like that our grades are lower than other Humanities subjects. Does that grading culture cost us our female students? If so, what ought we to do about it?”

Anyone else familiar with this research? Anyone have views on whether it’s a factor in philosophy and our gender enrollment issues at the undergrad level?

Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group annual Spring Workshop on Philosophical Methodologies

Announcement & Call for Postgraduate Respondents:

The Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group is proud to announce its annual Spring Workshop on Philosophical Methodologies on Friday the 16th of May 2014 at the University of Edinburgh.

We have decided to address the issue of philosophical methodology, following the success of previous EWPG Spring workshops, which have respectively focused on the under-representation of women in philosophy, the ethics and aesthetics of pornography, and implicit bias.

This issue of philosophical methodology has become a lively discussion point in philosophy departments and blogs due to the question of whether the nature of philosophical discourse is exclusionary either in the way philosophy is written or in the way it is done in more public events, such as conferences, seminars and workshops, not to mention in educational settings.

We hope this event will contribute to helping raise awareness about philosophical methodology and how it relates to both philosophical feminism and improving the situation of women in philosophy departments.

Confirmed speakers are:
Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Groningen)
Amia Srinivasan (Oxford)
Nancy Bauer (Tufts)
Eric Schliesser (Ghent)

For more information and for registration, see the following page:


We have a limited amount of Analysis Trust bursaries to cover postgraduate participation and accommodation, and we invite postgraduate students to submit expressions of interest to respond to the speakers’ talks. If you would like to be considered for a travel bursary, please submit a short statement (max. 300 words) detailing your motivation to do so to the following address: ewpgspringworkshop@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is the 15th of April.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the workshop’s sponsors: the Analysis Trust, the Scots Philosophical Association, the Society for Women in Philosophy – UK, and the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh.