However, a new study published in PLOS ONE (see summary and video interview with lead author Lynne Isbell here) from researchers at my university, UC Davis, suggests that the situation is more complex than that. Primatology has a higher percentage of women than men, and yet there are still underrepresentation issues at conferences. From the abstract:
Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%).
This seems to suggest that we have a long, long way to go in philosophy – that even once we improve the paltry 21% of philosophers who are women, we may still need to be vigilant in how we put together conferences and volumes. Other forces (perhaps including implicit biases) are likely to be at work beyond underrepresentation in the field. And apparently, it helps to have women included as organizers, although I have reason to believe that that is not a panacea. There is no substitute for continued and conscious attention to issues of representation in the field – not only the representation of women, of course, but also people of color, people with disabilities, and other minority groups.