The following is a guest post by Amy Ferrer, APA Executive Director
When I wrote a blog post on diversity issues more than a year ago during my guest series on Leiter Reports, I said the following:
Perhaps the most powerful tool we have to increase diversity in philosophy is data collection: there are many good ideas about how to make philosophy a more welcoming place for minorities and women, but we have no way of knowing whether our efforts are effective if we cannot measure their impact. And there are minorities about which we have little or no data: the prevalence of LGBT philosophers and disabled philosophers, for example, has rarely been tracked, so it’s very difficult to know how philosophy compares to other fields on inclusiveness in these areas.
I believed then, as I do now, in the business adage that “you make what you measure”—that is, by measuring, you can (even unconsciously) begin to see patterns in your measurements, and do more of the things that improve the metrics that matter to you. When it comes to measuring, philosophy, and the APA too, have been lacking. But the APA’s strategic planning task force, which reported to the board of officers last fall, included data collection as one of its priorities for the APA in the next few years, along with "providing membership services in an efficient manner, … development, and improving the public perception of philosophy."
While we’re not where we need to be yet, we’ve already made significant progress. The APA’s new website has allowed us to integrate demographic data collection into member profiles. We now track professional as well as personal demographics, from rank and AOS/AOC to gender and disability status. Last month we ran a demographic data drive that increased the amount of demographic data in our system by about a quarter, and we’ll continue to encourage members to complete their profiles through occasional reminders. (Members, update yours here.) Now that we’ve got some good data in hand, we can begin planning to analyze and report on it.
We’ve also revived and expanded the Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy (informally, the grad guide). Thanks to the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women, the grad guide survey now includes a number of demographic questions on faculty as well as students, and though these data are not always easy to gather—many institutions do not track race or LGBT status, for example—we are pleased to be getting a better, if still incomplete, picture of the profession. We also plan to launch a companion undergrad guide in the coming year.
We’ve now begun post-meeting evaluation surveys across all three divisions, which also collect demographic data on meeting participants, so that we can do more to ensure our divisional meetings are inclusive and welcoming. And the APA and the PhilPapers Foundation are in the process of adding a new feature to our joint venture, PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers—we will soon be tracking hiring announcements, including demographic data on those hired.
There’s also more information available now about the state of the humanities broadly, such as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences report, “The Heart of the Matter.” Additional data, including some discipline-specific data, are expected from the Academy soon, and you’ll hear from the APA when that’s available.
But there’s still so much more we want to know—and in some cases, we even have the data, but not the capability to analyze it. For example, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (which advocates on academic labor issues, and of which the APA is a longtime member) conducted a study on contingent faculty in 2010. The coalition has provided member organizations with the raw data, but we at the APA do not have the capacity to undertake statistical analysis of it at this time. We hope to create a philosophy-specific report from that survey down the road, but we’ll need trained statisticians—and the budget to fund their work—to make that happen. Members interested in helping us on this project should get in touch.
And in the slightly longer term, the strategic planning task force directed the APA to undertake a broad survey of the profession. This will require careful planning and execution, and as yet we haven’t determined just how to go about it within our resources, given the social science expertise that will be needed to do it properly.
We also need to get a better idea of what strategies for improving inclusiveness actually work. At the recent Central Division meeting, a session sponsored by the APA Committee on the Status of Women included a presentation on an effort at Georgia State to improve the climate for women by including more women on philosophy syllabi—a suggestion that has been widely offered by many people, including me, but one that’s not (yet) been proven to work. What about summer diversity institutes like PIKSI and Rutgers? How effective are they at increasing the number of philosophy students of diverse backgrounds continuing on to graduate programs and the professoriate? Is the mentoring program for early career women effective in retaining women in philosophy and improving their experiences in academia?
All this is to say that there are a great many opportunities to help the APA fulfill its data collection goals and meet data needs within the profession—for example, connecting us with researchers (perhaps graduate students) who would be interested in assisting with statistical analysis or survey development, and helping us raise more money to support data collection and analysis efforts.
After all, we make what we measure—and if we don’t succeed in measuring diversity, we won’t be able to make the difference so needed in the profession.