Reflections of a black female engineer

Dr. Carlotta Berry – an engineering professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology – has written an op-ed in the New York Times about her experiences as a woman of color in a male-dominated field. Much of it should sound fairly familiar to philosophers:

Having worked with thousands of students, I know for a fact that for many — though by no means all, or even most — there is already a presumption that I, as a female and African-American, am less qualified than my white male colleagues, or at the very least that I was hired in order to meet a double minority quota. And I get it — anti-affirmative-action ideologues have managed to not only demolish the legitimacy of that policy, but tar the reputation of anyone who might have benefited from it (even if, like me, they did not).

How do I know? Sometimes it’s just a sense, a feeling I get from people’s tone of voice. But some students will automatically call me Ms., while naturally referring to my male counterparts as Doctor or Professor. I’m not alone: When I meet fellow female engineering professors at conferences, this sort of treatment is always a topic of conversation.

In class, I have my derivations questioned, lectures critiqued, grading regarded as too harsh or unfair and my expectations dismissed as too high or difficult. I once had a student who would review notes with me that he had taken on my lecture, then offer tips on how I could improve. It seems he thought he was doing me a favor, despite the fact that I had been teaching for six years by then. I doubt that this is an experience that many of my male colleagues have ever had to endure.

Barbie F*cks It Up and Feminist Hackers Save the Day

…So, I wasn’t going to click the link. Sexist books and toys are ubiquitous, and one grows weary of reading about them. But it turns out that even though the Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer book is even more awful than you might expect (Barbie herself doesn’t write the code: she needs Steven and Brian for that.), Pamela Ribon’s righteous rant in response to Barbie’s ersatz engineering is worth the price of admission:

THE FUCKING END, PEOPLE. Despite having ruined her own laptop, her sister’s laptop, and the library’s computers, not to mention Steven and Brian’s afternoon, she takes full credit for her game design— only to get extra credit and decide she’s an awesome computer engineer! “I did it all by myself!”

Flip the book and you can read “Barbie: I can be an Actress,” where Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper’s school production of “Princess and the Pea.” […]

When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress” upside down.

Even better, if it weren’t for Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer, we would never have gotten to enjoy the Feminist Hacker Barbie site, at which readers are invited to improve the original book. Here’s one user’s suggested improvement:

Barbie, wearing glasses and flowing blonde hair, sits at a computer; the screen is showing multiple lines of computer code. Two young men stand beside her smiling.

Update: Great news! A female PhD student in computing has re-written the book to make it what it ought to have been in the first place. Here’s her version. Yay, intertubz!

Teaching Conway, Masham, Cavendish and Chatelet.

Feminist History of Philosophy

Andrew Janiak at Duke University is leading a team of eight faculty, students and staff in developing a web site on the works of early modern women philosophers. The website will include unpublished texts, translations of texts that have never been translated into English, and other materials such as sample syllabi from any philosophy courses that discuss these philosophers.

The web site, which will go live in the spring, will initially centre on four philosophers — Anne Conway, Damaris Cudworth Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Emilie du Chatelet. Andrew Janiak is therefore looking for a selection of syllabi (in PDF, HTML, or another format) that showcase how these figures have already been integrated into philosophy courses at various levels.

If you have such a syllabus and would like to help, please send it by email to

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Market Boost for Women Philosophers seeking jobs

An amazing new programme.

The purpose of the program is to provide support to women candidates on the job market. Since candidates already receive advice and support from faculty in their departments, this program has a particular kind of support in mind. This is the kind of support that can only come from female peers and mentors who have very recently had a similar experience. The program has several goals:
– To connect female candidates with others in their equivalent positions at other schools.
– To provide female candidates with a “junior mentor” from an outside department, someone who has relatively recently been in their position. Having distance from the candidate’s home department will allow for a mentoring relationship that complements the candidate’s own departmental relationships, and it may even help the candidate better handle and leverage those relationships.
– To facilitate the development of relationships between candidates, their mentors (individually), and their peers (collectively). These relationships take time, as they must involve trust in order to work effectively, so the program design includes multiple points of interaction.
– To provide a structured process for interaction among candidates, peer candidates, and mentors such that candidates feel they are connected to a wider network of females who, on the one hand, have been successful in philosophy, but on the other hand, are not so far out ahead that their success seems unattainable.

Check it out here!