Women in philosophy: flatlining May 13, 2016
Eric Schwitzgebel brings us this graph showing what’s happening to the percentage of women getting PhDs in various fields.
The overall trend is clear: Although philosophy’s percentages are currently similar to the percentages in engineering and physical sciences, the trend in philosophy has flattened out in the 21st century, while engineering and the physical sciences continue to make progress toward gender parity. All the broad areas show roughly linear upward trends, except for the humanities which appears to have flattened at approximately parity.
I urge you to go read more!
Philosophy Placement Data and Gender May 3, 2016
An important post over at the APA blog, with surprising data on gender and placement, and some interesting hypotheses about the findings.
Although more men than women were placed in permanent academic positions within two years of graduation, it is estimated that women have a 0.50 unit increase in the expected log odds of finding such placement…
We have two hypotheses regarding this result that we hope to explore:
- Women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because those women who would have been less likely to find permanent academic placement are more likely to leave the discipline before graduating than men in the same position. Here is one example of how this might occur: women are less likely to receive positive feedback or more likely to face a hostile environment than men such that less confident women are more likely to leave the field than less confident men. Women graduates are thus more confident, on average, than men graduates and confidence boosts likelihood of placement. (Thanks to “another commenter” at Daily Nous for this hypothesis.) To test this we will need attrition data that include gender. We intend to ask philosophy programs for this information in our next round of data gathering.
- Women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because women are more likely to specialize in areas sought by hiring programs. Although our analyses accounted for first-reported area of specialization, they did not account for the area of specialization sought by the hiring program. To test whether hiring AOS helps to explain the gender effect, we intend to match our placement data to the job ads from the same time period.
Another possibility is that women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because hiring programs have a preference for hiring women, all else being equal. This hypothesis has found some support in STEM fields. We do not now have plans to test this hypothesis, but could attempt in future to gather information from graduates relevant to hiring, such as publication and teaching records.
For more, go here.
Reflections on philosophical rudeness April 28, 2016
Nomy Arpaly has recently initiated a really interesting discussion on this topic. After an excellent discussion of the problems of philosophical rudeness (read it!), she ties the issue to gender.
I would like to add the following. I think the state of women in philosophy can be improved significantly simply through the elimination of rudeness in philosophical discourse. One can have many views about things we could or couldn’t do, should or shouldn’t do, to improve the state of women in philosophy, but before we settle those issues, why not start by doing what we already know that we have excellent reasons to do – utilitarian, Kantian, virtue-oriented, and commonsensical reasons, independent of any special feminist theory – and reduce our rudeness?
Here is how I think it will help. First, if everyone is rude, women are judged unfairly (as potential colleagues, for example) because rude women are treated more harshly than rude men, by everyone, due to implicit bias. Implicit bias is notoriously hard to change, but thankfully it is not as hard to change behavior – such as rudeness. I am not saying that we should not try to change implicit bias – of course we should – nor am I saying that changing behavior is easy (I have plenty of experience to the contrary), but you get my drift.
Second, in the actual world, polite women are also judged harshly when they respond to the rudeness of others. In a job interview, for example, a woman who faces a rude interviewer has the choice between responding assertively (and thus facing the notorious “shrill voice” bias) and responding gently. A woman who responds in a gentle, conciliatory manner to a rude interview question, or who looks too insecure and intimidated in response to the rude question, is often perceived by the some people in the room as not having enough to say. This whole painful catch-22 does not occur if the interviewer is not rude in the first place. Again, changing behavior is much easier than changing implicit bias.
Third, it has been said many times that women are put off by the idea of entering philosophy because girls are not taught to handle confrontational, adversarial situations, or situations where one’s abilities are judged harshly. Some think philosophy should change here – either through what I called “pacifism” earlier or through changing the way we evaluate people, or otherwise. Some, on the other hand, say that though the education of girls should change, philosophy shouldn’t. After all, girls and women play sports nowadays, and compete in athletics, and the ones who do most definitely don’t ask for the rules of rugby to be changed to make it kinder and gentler, or for boxing be made non-adversarial, or for the cruelty of publishing players’ stats to be stopped.
Me? All I want to do here is suggest that we try to eliminate what we already regard as foul play, what we already know we shouldn’t do but do anyway. It won’t solve everything, but if we reduce rudeness, I solemnly promise that more women will want to do philosophy. I hereby conjecture with confidence that the simple words “sorry, but you were saying-?”, can make a critical difference, consciously or not, to some young women’s readiness to do philosophy. It might sound silly, especially if one forgets how susceptible all humans are to seemingly insignificant factors, but it is not silly, but rather tragic, if we have lost some wonderful potential contributions to the field just because we couldn’t wait for someone to finish talking. It would show the wrong priorities if we continue to lose such wonderful contributions in the name of some supposed sacred right to be as obnoxious as we’ve always been.
For further reflections on philosophy and rudeness, inspired by Arpaly, check out Kieran Healy.
All-female Philosophy of Mind Syllabus April 7, 2016
Here, by Zoe Drayson:
I created this syllabus largely to show that it can be done, and to create a resource for other philosophers looking to add female authors to their syllabi. (I did not create this syllabus in an attempt to rid the philosophical world of men.) I was also inspired by finding this personal ad on Google.
Why do undergraduate women stop studying philosophy? March 31, 2016
UPDATE: We’ve decided (in consultation with Morgan) that it would be a good idea to open discussion here as well, so we’re doing so. Please do feel free to comment!
An important blog post by Morgan Thompson, about an important paper.
In early 2012, Toni Adleberg, Sam Sims, Eddy Nahmias, and I began a project to gather empirical support for explanations of the gender gap in philosophy, focusing on potential causes of the early drop-off of women in philosophy between initial courses and choosing to major, since research shows that this is the most significant drop-off. If the proportion of women majors remains stuck under 1/3, as it has been for decades (National Center for Education Statistics 2013), then it will remain difficult to improve the proportion of women graduate students and faculty.
Our paper describing our surveys, results, and suggestions is now published in Philosophers’ Imprint here. We hope people will find it useful, especially for generating more hypotheses, research, and solutions. Below, we offer a few highlights and welcome discussion here at Daily Nous.
Diversifying a Discipline March 29, 2016
I haven’t been able to read this yet because it’s behind a paywall, but I’m going to find a way around that because it’s important.
In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.
Women in various subdisciplines of philosophy March 16, 2016
Important new research from Eric Schwitzgebel and Carolyn Dicey Jennings.
We leave speculation on causes and possible remedies to others. However we emphasize four features of our findings that might be especially relevant to policy:
A. Journal editors and conference organizers in ethics should not assume that a proportion of women consistent with the proportion in philosophy as a whole (say, in the low 20%’s) is representative of the proportion of available philosophers in ethics.
B. Although the gender disparity in philosophy is large, it is even larger outside of ethics than it is in ethics. Non-ethics fields might be in even more need of intervention than would appear to be the case looking at the numbers in philosophy as whole.
C. Although the younger generation appears to be closer to gender parity and ethics is somewhat closer to gender parity than other subfields, ethics remains far from gender parity in junior hiring; and it remains the case that the vast majority of authors of ethics articles in elite Anglophone journals are men.
D. If it is true that the 20th-century trend toward less gender disparity has slowed or stopped, then current practices to encourage gender parity might not be enough to ensure further progress toward that aim, and more assertive action might be required.
CFA: Reconsidering the Philosophical Canon (Duquesne) March 2, 2016
April 23, 2016
Keynote Speaker: Penelope Deutscher, Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University
Duquesne Women in Philosophy (D-WiP) and the Duquesne chapter of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) invite philosophical papers on the question of reconsidering the philosophical canon. Given the recent discussions on the limitations of the philosophical canon, we aim to facilitate a discussion on the future directions of philosophy, how we may reconsider our reading of the history of philosophy and the question of canonicity. Papers are welcome from historical perspectives as well as from within contemporary philosophical discourse. We invite abstract submissions of maximum 500 words to email@example.com by March 7, 2016. Allotted presentation time will be 20 minutes.
Possible areas of exploration include:
- women in the history of philosophy
- philosophy done from minority perspective in the history of philosophy
- intersection of race and gender in the history of philosophy
- attempts in contemporary philosophy of reformulating the North American and European philosophical canon
- historical or critical approaches to the modernity in terms of canonization of philosophical texts
- feminist writings on the philosophical canon
- problems of race and racism in Modern philosophy
This conference is generously sponsored by Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), Duquesne Programming Council (DPC), and the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts.
Thoughts from an assault survivor in philosophy February 27, 2016
An anonymous guest post:
Over the last few years, the the philosophical community has begun to take public notice of sexual harassment and abuse in our profession. On the whole, this is A Good Thing: It’s hard to address as a profession a problem we pretend doesn’t exist.
But, as is so often the case when the topic of the abuse of women is raised, not all of these discussions have been constructive. There has been a lot of skeptical speculation: “The allegations can’t be true because Professor is clever, well-educated—he’s too smart to put himself at risk”, “they can’t be true because he’s too good-looking, too well-situated in life. Why would he harass someone, rape someone? He must meet loads of interested women”, “the alleged victim has a boyfriend, a husband—she’s lying to cover up a consensual relationship”, “she’s probably just mad he dumped her”, “the alleged victim didn’t complain to the university right away, didn’t call the police—a real victim would never do that”, “I know Professor; he’s a good guy. He would never do a thing like that; if he had, I would have known, there would have been some sign”, and on, and on.
Listening to these discussions, online, on the various blogs and on facebook, at conferences and other professional/social events, I often find myself wondering what impression such speculation makes on victims, who are there among us, whether we know it or not. My speculation, though, isn’t entirely idle. You see, I am a professional philosopher, a senior woman. And when I was in grad school, I was raped by another philosopher.
For the survivors:
The single, most important thing for you to know is it gets better. I remember quite well the aftermath; the feeling of unreality, as if you aren’t quite fully connected to your body. And the feeling of incredible fragility, as if brushing up against another object would cause you to shatter into small pieces. I remember the confusion, the unwillingness to accept that this is something that really happened to you because….well, how could that happen to you? How could another human being do this to you, torture you for his sexual pleasure? And the months of brain fog, the insomnia, the sudden bouts of paralyzing anxiety. The bizarre feeling of deep shame that makes no sense. I remember.
It seems like it will never end. But I promise you, I PROMISE you, it gets better. The fog will lift. You will think again. And, if you choose, you will be a philosopher again. I count myself as a moderately successful philosopher; I am in a research-oriented department; I love my colleagues; they are generous and kind. And I love what I do; I love my students and I love my work. And there are many others out there just like me. We’re aren’t particularly heroic, we don’t have special abilities, we don’t have super strength. But we made it through this. Victims can make it through this.
In saying this, that recovery is absolutely possible, I do not mean to suggest that it is easy. Getting better can be hard work, work that is made a lot easier with the help of supportive friends and professionals. If you continue to have trouble with anxiety, depression, or insomnia, please seek the help of a professional who is trained to help survivors. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN, https://rainn.org/get-help/help-a-loved-one ) is a good place to start. Please, please take care of yourself.
For the speculators:
Gossip can be fun. I get that. I imagine a few folks in our profession enjoy gossip regardless of its consequences. But I’m betting most folks aren’t like this. Most of us, I imagine, would most like to put an end to the victimization of women in our discipline. And I bet most of us recognize that part of what is required to make that happen is for victims to come forward.
So, let me tell you what a rehearsal of the near-platitudes of dismissal I mentioned above sound like to survivors who are standing right there, I promise you, when you utter them or stand there quietly when you hear someone else do so. The translation is: “I very much doubt these allegations, despite the fact that I am not acquainted with the parties at all, don’t know the particulars, and don’t even have any idea who the complainant is. Nonetheless, I do not believe her.” When you do this, you make it rational for victims to hide. You want to know why a victim didn’t complain to the university, didn’t go to the police, or didn’t go right away? Review these conversations in your head and you have your answer. You, when you casually dismiss serious allegations or when you stand there silently while others do, demonstrate the pointlessness of speaking out. You are the reason victims do not advocate for themselves.
It is within our power to fix this problem. But we need to stand up, speak up. I hope that now you know, you do.