I wanted to follow up on Catarina's inspiring post. This post is not primarily about babies inside or outside the tummy (love the title!) but about issues related to my friend and co-editorial board member Edouard Machery's reference to the article by Ceci and Williams in the comment section of my own post. I will get to Catarina's points at the end of this blog.
I hasten to say that I would be the last person to reject any studies published in PNAS on philosophical grounds (or other non-empirical grounds) but I do think Eric is right that these kinds of studies are potentially damaging. We all know how hard it is to detect implicit discrimination and biases. We all think we are great and unbiased and then when we take the Harvard IAT test, we realize just how biased we really are. In a recent conversation with a colleague, my colleague claimed to my face that he was completely unbiased with respect to women and people of color, that he had overcome any potential biases a long time ago. I begged him to take the Harvard IAT test(s), he did and he then had to admit that what he had said earlier was wrong.
Again, the problem with implicit biases is that they are exceedingly hard to detect. Say you implicitly or explicitly want to turn down a woman for tenure or promotion. There is no way that you are going to get away with saying that you reject her because she is female. It would probably also be difficult for you to face yourself in the mirror the next day if you did say that. But what you can do is search for gaps, omissions, typos, etc. in the female candidate's dossier, things you are not going to look for in the male candidate's dossier. You can then bring these "terrible" omissions to the committee's or dean's attention and get everyone to focus on them and get them to vote against the candidate unanimously. It's not that hard to do. You can do it, regardless of how qualified the female candidate is. I have seen it on several occasions. I think the literature on knowledge and skepticism is informative here. The skeptic can easily manipulate the standards for knowledge. All she needs to say is something like "Are you really sure that you know this?". People asked this question almost immediately take back their earlier claim to know. This kind of maneuver takes place when women are up for tenure and promotion. They are held to stricter standards than men. You can put two dossiers next to each other, one being the male candidate's and the other being the female candidate's, demonstrate that the female is twice as good as the male, show that the few typos and missing page numbers in the female candidate's dossier are also present in the male candidate's dossier. You can do all that, and even then the dean and his committees may end up voting for the male and against the female.
Admittedly, what I am telling you is based on anecdotal evidence, hearsay and first-person observation of a few cases. Edouard may well be right that there is no overall discrimination against women. But it is extremely puzzling then why bad male behavior so frequently takes place in my presence. It would be quite a coincidence if I (and a few other women and men who speak up about these issues) happened to have landed jobs in institutions in which these biases do exist. Of course you could say that noticing these biases at our local universities is the reason we speak up. But I haven't been at just one university. I have been at several (on several different continents and ranging from highly ranked to not ranked). It would be very strange if I happened to be hired at the four (or so) universities at which discrimination takes place.
I could just be imagining that discrimination takes place. That's a genuine possibility. As I said, I cannot prove that it occurs. We are beyond that phase (thank god). It's no longer okay to explicitly say bad things about women merely because they are women. That is really great. But I wonder how we get rid of the remaining implicit biases. Again, you may deny that there are any remaining implicit biases. But if there aren't any, then why are there only 20 percent women in philosophy? Why are these numbers not slowly increasing? Why are the numbers even worse at the levels of associate and full professor? Why are there only 10 percent female contributions to philosophy volumes? Why do male philosophers make more money than female philosophers? Why do we keep encountering male-only conferences, even in areas dominated by women? Why do so many females I know have trouble getting through the tenure and promotion process? I think the answer to these questions is obvious.
I want to go back to the issue that was the point of my previous post as well as Catarina's. The point was that some of the biases in the profession can be explained by the fact that females have all odds against them. Pregnancy and babies are just two of those obstacles. I chose not to appear pregnant at any conferences or talks. Catarina courageously showed up pregnant and breastfeeding and all and had great experiences. Many others did too (e.g., Laurie). I have had a lot of great experiences, too, when I have brought my (now) 7-year old daughter to conferences. But it's not easy. I don't have a mother-in-law in the area who can help out (in fact, I don't have a mother-in-law). After the many recent direct and indirect salary cuts, I can't afford full-time or even part-time nannies. I have to bring my daughter to a lot of talks and social events. I usually choose to speak about all the benefits of doing so, all the great moments. I usually leave out the downside, the embarrassing or unfair incidents that have taken place when I have brought my daughter to talks or social events.
I will make this quick. But here are a few of the things that have happened in the context of raising my daughter and bringing her to philosophy events. When I was pumping milk for my daughter and brought the hospital-grade breast pump to work, a colleague asked why I brought my tool box. At one point I had to leave the Q&A of my own talk because the pain in my breasts from the milk accumulating got so bad that I couldn't think. I was once told by a flight attendant that I couldn't pump milk in my seat, despite being completely covered up (and using a tiny hand-pump). I told her I couldn't leave my seat, as my daughter was sleeping in the air crib in front of me. She didn't care and didn't offer to watch my daughter while I finished the pumping job in the bathroom. A flight attendant on a different flight gave the man in the seat next to me a bag of goodies to compensate for the noise he had had to endure during the flight (I had had my daughter sitting on my lap for 8 hours! The flight attendant ought to have given me the bag of goodies). At one point I was told to leave an APA talk despite my daughter being as quiet as a mouse, because kids weren't allowed. At one talk my daughter puked on everything and everyone sitting in the close vicinity of me. One night I was thrown out of a bar after a talk because of the slot machines in the back. My daughter was tiny and asleep in her stroller but kids weren't allowed because of the slot machines. Another night I was thrown out of a restaurant at 9 p.m. because kids weren't allowed after 9 p.m. My daughter was asleep in her stroller. At one speaker dinner I was nearly thrown out of the restaurant because my daughter was quietly eating a tiny sandwich that I didn't purchase at the restaurant (which didn't have any food items my daughter liked on the menu). I won't go on about this. I just want to point out that I rarely hear men having similar kinds of problems (in some cases for good reasons).