Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Anonymous marking makes huge difference in elementary school February 7, 2015

Filed under: bias,science — jennysaul @ 9:03 pm

and non-anonymous marking has long-lasting effects.

Beginning in 2002, the researchers studied three groups of Israeli students from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, one graded by outsiders who did not know their identities and another by teachers who knew their names.

In math, the girls outscored the boys in the exam graded anonymously, but the boys outscored the girls when graded by teachers who knew their names. The effect was not the same for tests on other subjects, like English and Hebrew. The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.

For example, when the same students reached junior high and high school, the economists analyzed their performance on national exams. The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better.

They also tracked the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school. After controlling for other factors that might affect their choices, they concluded that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary schoolteachers were much less likely than the boys to take advanced courses.

For more, go here.


Lasting change in view from 20 minute conversation with gay person January 31, 2015

Filed under: bias,discrimination,glbt,marriage,science — jennysaul @ 8:01 pm

For the study, Michael LaCour of UCLA and Donald Green of Columbia surveyed a bunch of registered voters in Southern California to get their views on gay marriage (and a bunch of other issues, to hide the true purpose of the study), and offered them financial incentives to get friends and family members to participate as well.

Then, trained canvassers were dispatched to the homes of the people who had taken the survey, where they delivered a script about either gay marriage or recycling (to create a placebo group) and asked the voters to express their opinions on the subject. Halfway through the conversations about gay marriage, the gay canvassers revealed they were gay and wanted to get married but couldn’t because of California’s then-ban on gay marriage, while the straight ones “instead described how their child, friend, or relative” was dealing with the same conundrum. The conversations lasted, on average, 22 minutes…

In the short term, the 20-minute conversations about gay marriage had a clear and large effect: Before the conversation, the residents had held beliefs on gay marriage in line with the average resident of Nebraska or Ohio; a few days after, their beliefs were in line with the average residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts (an increase of 0.48 points on a 5-point scale), and whether the canvasser was gay or straight didn’t have much impact on the size of the effect.

But it was the longer-term effect that was more surprising: While “90% of the initial treatment effect dissipated a month after the conversation with canvassers” among voters who spoke with a straight canvasser, among those who conversed with a gay canvasser, the size of the effect increased over time — “ only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups.” By the end of the study, among voters who spoke with a gay canvasser, the gap between where they were and where they ended up on the issue of gay marriage was equivalent to the difference in opinion on the subject between the average resident of Georgia and the average resident of Massachusetts.

For more, go here.


Annotated Bibliography on Gender Bias in Academia

Filed under: academia,bias — jennysaul @ 8:21 am

What a fantastically useful thing to have! Here.


(Thanks, T!)


Dean Adam Scales tackles sexist student evaluations January 29, 2015

Filed under: appearance,bias,teaching — Jender @ 9:17 pm


The school in question is Rutgers Law – Camden, and Vice Dean Adam F. Scales is the man who took his students to task for their chauvinist commentary. He begins his email by mentioning that throughout his years of teaching, his look ranged from “Impoverished Graduate Student” to “British Diplomat,” but noted that no one would ever have known that just by reading his student evaluations for one reason, and one reason only — he’s a man. Scales then gallantly continues his onslaught against sexism:

It has come to my attention that a student submitted an evaluation that explored, in some detail, the fashion stylings of one of your professors. It will surprise no one possessing the slightest familiarity with student evaluations that this professor is a woman. Women are frequently targets of evaluative commentary that, in addition to being wildly inappropriate and adolescent, is almost never directed at men. Believe me, I am about the last person on this faculty for whom the “sexism” label falls readily to hand, but after a lifetime of hearing these stories, I know it when I see it. Anyone who doubts this would find it instructive to stop by and ask any one of our female professors about this and similar dynamics.


More on the genius-stereotype and underrepresentation January 19, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias — Monkey @ 10:47 am

Readers may be interested in this radio interview with psychologist Carol Dweck, who discusses the work by Sarah-Jane Leslie and colleagues on underrepresentation and the genius stereotype. Dweck (who was not a part of the study) discusses how the idea that innate genius or smartness is required to do well in certain fields might affect learning, motivation, and the gender gap. (Readers might also be interested to note that there is a call from a woman about seven minutes in who majored in philosophy, achieving straight A’s. She was nevertheless told by her advisor that she didn’t “have what it takes” to apply to grad school.)


Geniuses, stereotypes and underrepresentation January 16, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias — Jender @ 9:54 pm

Sarah-Jane Leslie and her co-authors have done some really great work showing that fields which are thought to require genius show the lowest representations of both women and black people. We discussed this a while back, but now it’s get a ton of well-deserved attention after being published in Science.

One thing that’s interesting is the extent to which many of have sensed this as a problem for a field for quite a long time. See, for example, this post from 2010 on Seeming Smart.

Seeming smart is probably to a large extent about activating people’s associations with intelligence. This is probably especially true when one is overhearing a comment about a complex subject that isn’t exactly in one’s expertise, so that the quality of the comment is hard to evaluate. And what do people associate with intelligence? Some things that are good: Poise, confidence (but not defensiveness), giving a moderate amount of detail but not too much, providing some frame and jargon, etc. But also, unfortunately, I suspect: whiteness, maleness, a certain physical bearing, a certain dialect (one American type, one British type), certain patterns of prosody — all of which favor, I suspect, upper- to upper-middle class white men.

I think it’s also notable who insensitive the smartness/genius judgments are to evidence. It makes perfect sense to say “he’s really smart, it just doesn’t come through in his papers”; or ” She’s not that smart, she just works really hard”.

[See also this and this.

It’s fantastic to have people talking about this! Maybe now we can all finally stop talking about who’s smart. (And don’t get me started on genius projects.)


“Is it Child abuse to make a trans child ‘Change’?” January 9, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,human rights,parenting,psychology — annejjacobson @ 7:50 pm

This is the topic for a NY Times “room for debate.” It is in response to the very sad suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a trans child whose parents loved almost everything about her, her mother said. Just not her being trans; they took her to conversion therapy to try to change her back to a boy named “Joshua” (her name at birth).

There’s a special feature to this NY Times debate. Everyone thinks it is an exceptionally bad idea to try to make a trans child change. This is the first “room for debate” I’ve seen when the other side has had no representation.


What can philosophy learn from the climate in economics? January 7, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 6:06 pm

The journal Quartz recently published the article, “How big is the sexism problem in economics? This article’s co-author is anonymous because of it”.

The article starts off noting:

The Economist’s recent list of the 25 most influential economists did not include a single woman. Many male former central bankers and regional Federal Reserve Bank governors were included on the list, but the Economist gave itself a special rule to exclude active central bankers, which meant that Janet Yellen—arguably the world’s most influential economist—didn’t make the list.

Much of what the article catalogues will be very familiar to women philosophers, and to some other philosophers from underrepresented groups: Seeming constant microagressions and macro ones too. Lower pay, power imbalances, the impermissibility of assertive (=bitchy) behavior for women, having a family, a harder time getting outside offers, and so on.

The article raises another issue which is starting to receive a lot of attention in philosophy: the diversity of methods and content:

One final step that would make economics less forbidding for women is for each economist to become open to a wider range of scientific approaches and topics. Statistically, men and women are not drawn to the same fields within economics. And even within a field, women are drawn to a different balance between immediate real-world relevance and theoretical elegance. It is natural for each economist (and for each academic in general) to construct a narrative for why his or her approach to economics is the best. But since men in senior ranks in economics are more numerous than women, the narratives that men construct for why their individual approaches to economics are better usually win out in hiring and promotion decisions over the narratives that women construct for why their individual approaches are better.

Gosh, sounds like what a lot of us call home.

h/t justin weinberg


Women’s abilities in Math: a surprising conservative viewpoint

Filed under: academia,achieving equality,bias,gender — annejjacobson @ 5:18 pm

The authors on the paper from which the quote below comes include Ceci and Williams, with Ceci the corresponding author. Readers may be aware of complaints on this blog about their research, which tends to claim, for example, that there is no discrimination against women in STEM fields. Conservative columnists love them. Their following assessment, which in effect summarizes theses we’ve arrived at over the last 7 and a half years after considerable attention to the literature and help from readers, is happily surprising:

The results of our myriad analyses reveal that early sex differences in spatial and mathematical reasoning need not stem from biological bases, that the gap between average female and male math ability is narrowing (suggesting strong environmental influences), and that sex differences in math ability at the right tail show variation over time and across nationalities, ethnicities, and other factors, indicating that the ratio of males to females at the right tail can and does change. We find that gender differences in attitudes toward and expectations about math careers and ability (controlling for actual ability) are evident by kindergarten and increase thereafter, leading to lower female propensities to major in math-intensive subjects in college but higher female propensities to major in non-math-intensive sciences…


Examples of implicit racial bias at work January 4, 2015

An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.

A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.



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