Some important observations about achieving gender diversity in philosophy


Paula Boddington has an important paper on achieving gender diversity in philosophy.  She looks at features of philosophy in order to argue – or suggest – that efforts at achieving equity may be undercut either by themselves or by the features of the discipline.  A few examples:

  1.  Efforts at helping young women in philosophy through mentoring, awards, etc., may reinforce the busy-ness of philosophy that distracts from serious attention being paid to underlying moral issues.
  2. The same efforts may distract us from examining the incredible load of credential gathering that a philosophy career now involves, and the resulting competitiveness that means the upper ranks are all the harder to get into.
  3. The same competitiveness may effectively marginalised the important voices of people with different values and abilities.
  4. People who write on moral issues, evidence suggests, may excuse themselves from important moral action; i.e., they are good enough to allow a few transgressions.

I am aware I haven’t done justice to the wonderful richness of Boddington’s paper.  Or to its real sparks of humor, such as the idea that the current proliferation of credentials might have been planned in a meeting of the Vienna Circle and Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.  Excellence doesn’t exist unless it is measured!

PS:  a few of the ideas I didn’t mention above:  the impact that philosophy’s not having a good exit exerts; the fact that philosophy’s failure at diversifying neededn’t be due to one or a few big awful things; it can be lots and lots of little things, picking off one or a few at a time; the ways in which rules and regulations can dehumanize, etc, etc.