I have long believed the conventional wisdom that women are not proportionately distributed through every subfield in philosophy. In my field of theoretical ethics, in particular, it is often said that more women in philosophy seem to be found here than are in the profession more widely.
I believe it a little less today, though it may still turn out to be true. Trent University student Cole Murdoch undertook a short summer research project for me, looking at the ratio of male to female authors in two leading journals of moral philosophy.
Although we've still data to wade through, it is interesting to me that in looking at a five-year window of publications in Ethics and Journal of Moral Philosophy, the student did not find that women-authored articles appeared in much greater numbers than our number in the profession. I tasked him with this merely to find out who and what the journals in my field publish, for self-interested reasons, but I also expected that, as we regularly hear women in philosophy disproportionately specialize in ethics, he'd find much more parity in JMP and Ethics, or at least, higher numbers of women's names than one might find in the profession. [see below for a report of the analysis]
I'm spinning out a series of posts at The Splintered Mind, based on a new citation database my son built for me, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Maybe it will be of interest to some NewAPPS readers.
When the NewAPPS bloggers first invited me to submit a guest post on my attention research as a graduate student, I decided to submit a post on the term "genius" instead. In the case that it was the only post I would write, I wanted the post to have maximum utility. After some thought, I decided to target the obsession with genius, thinking it a pernicious problem easily deflated. I am not alone in finding it to be a problem. In fact, I may well have been alerted to the problem by Eric Schwitzgebel's blog post on "seeming smart." Commentators on the problem have looked at everything from its impact on women and racial/ethnic minorities to its impact on child prodigies, some of whom have written against it in favor of work-based praise (and for good reason). So, I was half-right: I was right to think it is a problem, but I was wrong, of course, in thinking the problem could be easily deflated. I am going to give it another stab, this time aiming closer to the heart of what I find to be the problem--the way that the terms "genius" and "smart" are used to silence minorities. I know about this first hand--just last week Brian Leiter implied that I was not smart enough to understand a particular distinction that he felt I had overlooked.
Update (6/9/2014): I urge skeptical readers to examine these much more respectful posts, where there is no mention of intelligence, for sake of comparison: on David Marshall Miller, on Andy Carson, and again on Andy Carson. These job market analyses were perfomed after my first analysis in April 2012 and have many similar elements. Furthermore, the content of Brian Leiter's criticisms to these analyses is much the same, but without the damaging remarks about mental capacity, intention, etc.
I have data on 715 candidates who have been placed in tenure-track, postdoctoral, VAP, or instructor positions between late 2011 and mid 2014 (ending today), drawn from ProPhilosophy (2011-2012 and 2012-2013) and PhilAppointments (2013-2014). I aim to make the spreadsheet with this data available by around July 1st (I will add any new data available by that date). Until then, I will report some initial findings, starting with gender.
Over at Feminist Philosophers, they've posted the CFP for a conference on Diversity in Philosophy that, I'm proud to say, is being hosted and co-sposored by my alma mater, Villanova University, along with Hypatia and the APA's Committee for the Status of Women.
The conference will be held at Villanova on May 28-30, 2015 and the deadline for submissions of 250-500 word proposals is January 1, 2015.
More info and the full CFP follows after the break.
Some years ago, at the end of an evening that probably involved more alcoholic beverages than it should have, I found myself as a member of a small party of four, composed of two colleagues (and incidentally, good friends) and one PhD student (all three male). As the conversation progressed, I ended up saying things that were somewhat sexually explicit (as some readers may recall, I don’t shy away from talking about matters pertaining to sexuality – see a recent lecture of mine on the science of female orgasm). To be clear, what I said could not have been construed as ‘flirtatious’ in any way, but the next day I came to deeply regret the whole episode. My reasoning was as follows: had I been a male individual, and had the student in question been a female individual, what I said would have been undoubtedly inappropriate, by my own lights. (Similar considerations could be offered concerning interactions with colleagues, but I was particularly concerned with the asymmetry between me and the student).
This episode led me to formulate and since then apply a principle of parity to regulate my behavior in professional situations: not to say or do anything that would be construed or viewed as problematic, had I been a man dealing with (especially more junior) women, be they colleagues, students etc. Until then, I would on occasion make remarks during class (e.g. ‘here, size does matter’ when talking about some issue pertaining to model-theory) which seemed to me to be ok (and in a sense, even a ‘political statement’ in some way), but which would not have been appropriate if uttered by a man. I do not make such remarks in class anymore.
In my role as intructional faculty, I aim to grade everything anonymously, which is a provision I enjoyed as an undergraduate. My current method is to ask students to write their names on the back of their papers and exams, which also helps me to return them. One of my students remarked that I must do this because I am particularly biased. She may be right. But there is reason to believe that we are all biased against minority groups in our grading practices. Take this publication on the perception of grammatical and spelling errors by partners at 22 law firms: "The exact same memo averaged a 3.2/5.0 rating under our hypothetical 'African American' Thomas Meyer and a 4.1/5.0 rating under hypothetical 'Caucasian' Thomas Meyer. The qualitative comments on memos, consistently, were also more positive for the 'Caucasian' Thomas Meyer than our 'African American' Thomas Meyer." It seems obvious to me that these effects could have an impact on the grading of philosophy papers and exams. (It may be worth noting that the gender/race/ethnicity of the partner did not affect these findings, although "female partners generally found more errors and wrote longer narratives"). And take this publication on faculty assessment of a student applicant, mentioned a couple of years ago here at NewAPPS: "Our results revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring." The difference in mean rated competence, hireability, and mentor-worthiness was of the order of 10%. Again, it seems obvious to me that these effects could have an impact on the grading of philosophy papers and exams, which could be a grade-letter difference (i.e. the difference between a B and a C). Since perceived differences in grading standards could have an impact on whether students choose to stay in philosophy, it seems to me that anonymous grading would both be more just and would encourage a more diverse range of participants in philosophy (see other suggestions on this over at Daily Nous). What does everyone else think? Do you grade anonymously? If not, why not?
Update: Other posts on this topic are here and here.
This blog officially has 16 authors, 6 of whom are women. A quick glance to the category cloud will show you that one of the most prolific authors is a woman. So then why does a commentator at Philosophy MetaBlog characterize the blog as run by men? This is the comment linked to by Brian Leiter:
“Anonymous May 4, 2014 at 8:48 AM I can't speak for others' use of the term, but in my case the behavior over the last few years of Protevi, Schliesser, Matthen, Lance, Kazarian, et al. is what makes the term 'Nudechapps' so fitting. The boys have made a habit of prancing around in condescending moral superiority over so many things that one is reminded of a person engaging in a shameless display of self-aggrandizement. What's worse, the Nudechapps consistently treat dissenters with derision and disgust. So the echochamber these nincompoops have created for themselves has allowed them to spread a view within their little clique that is grotesque in many of its details. And the handful of hangers-on that support their shenanigans are like nothing so much as the stupefied populace trying so hard to convince themselves that the emperor is wearing the glorious raiment of moral superiority. But of course the emperor is wearing no clothes, and he is shameless about how good he looks. Thus, Nudechapps.”
This description, and others in the comments at Philosophers’ Anonymous, seems to me an ignoble attempt to take down individuals without recourse to evidence or argument. For the most part, I do not find such expressions worthy of consideration. But this one is interesting, I think, because of what is left out. Is it the case that the commentator thinks that none of the women at NewAPPS fit the description he or she finds so apt for its men? I doubt it. A more reasonable reading of this comment is that the author has simply forgotten the women of NewAPPS, or finds them relatively unimportant. Such forgetting, together with so much vitriol about feminism in the comment stream at that blog is striking, if not all that surprising. As one recent study found, "hostile sexists and feminists were more and less likely, respectively, to show implicit prejudice against female authorities." In this case, gender bias serves to spare our blushes, but not without reminding us that we have to work harder to be heard, especially by those who start from further away.
Update: I added text above to distance the gender bias claim for the comment in question from the claim about vitriol toward feminism found in the overall comment stream.
I noted in another post the apparent difference in impact of the Philosophical Gourmet ranking of one's PhD granting institution on tenure-track placement according to gender, following up on posts elsewhere (here, here, and here). In this post I want to follow up on a speculation that I made in comments that the apparent difference in impact is due not to a difference in the way prestige impacts women and men on the job market, but due to a difference in the way that the Philosophical Gourmet tracks prestige for areas dominated by men versus areas that have a higher proportion of women.
You may already be familiar with work by Kieren Healy that shows that the Philosophical Gourmet ranking especially favors particular specialties: "It's clear that not all specialty areas count equally for overall reputation... Amongst the top twenty departments in 2006, MIT and the ANU had the narrowest range, relatively speaking, but their strength was concentrated in areas that are very strongly associated with overall reputation---in particular, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Language, and Philosophy of Mind."
Marcus Arvan at the Philosophers' Cocoon posted sample data from the new appointments site at PhilJobs, which is discussed in a great post by Helen de Cruz here at New APPS. In comments at de Cruz's post and in a new post Arvan discusses the impact of Gourmet ranking on women and men seeking tenure-track jobs. I wanted to follow up on Arvan's post by looking at the full set of data currently available at PhilJobs. I did this in part because I knew that the sample Arvan collected was skewed on gender, due to an earlier analysis on gender I performed for a comment on a post at the Philosophy Smoker. With that convoluted introduction aside, here is a summary of the findings, in keeping with the findings by Arvan: the gourmet rank of one's PhD granting institution appears to have a greater impact on men seeking tenure-track jobs than on women seeking tenure-track jobs. Although I cannot yet speak to the source of this discrepancy, I (like Arvan) find the difference troubling. I welcome comments on the source of the difference below, although any comments will be subject to moderation. Let's look more closely at the data (Note: the linked spreadsheet was updated on May 14th):
I have been thinking about an analogy to the Bechdel test for philosophy papers - this in the light of recent observations that women get fewer citations even if they publish in the "top" general philosophy journals (see also here). To briefly recall: a movie passes the Bechdel test if (1) there are at least 2 women in it, (2) they talk to each other, (3) about something other than a man.
A paper passes the philosophy Bechdel test if
It cites at least two female authors
At least one of these citations engages seriously with a female author's work (not just "but see" [followed by a long list of citations])
At least one of the female authors is not cited because she discusses a man (thanks to David Chalmers for suggesting #3).
The usual cautionary notes about the Bechdel test apply here too. A paper that doesn't meet these standards is not necessarily deliberately overlooking women's work (it could be ultra-short, it might be on a highly specialized topic that has no female authors in the field - is this common?), but on the whole, it seems like a good rule of thumb to make sure women authors in one's field are not implicitly overlooked when citing.
Relatedly, a truly sexist and essentialist view of women's abilities in philosophy has reared its head on the blogosphere, and Showalter seems unable to respond to it effectively. Hope someone here can nip this in the bud. It's in the comments section.
Tara is referring to comments by commenter "Highly Adequate"--comments which include this one:
The news has just been released that Rev. Fred Phelps, founder and lifelong shepherd of the Westboro Baptist Church (in Topeka, Kansas) has died at the age of 84. I find it difficult, I confess, to summon the normal human compassion that usually accompanies news of another's death in this case, largely because Phelps dedicated his life to broadcasting his rejection of-- not to mention enlisting others, including children, to stage carnival-like circuses around his rejection of-- what most people would consider even the most minimally-decent exhibitions of human compassion. Fred Phelps was one of the most infamous, outrageous, dishonorable and genuinely despicable hatemongers of my generation. And, what is more, Fred Phelps' hate was as ferocious and vicious as it was blind. Through the prism of his delusional and evangelical abhorrence, the Westboro congregants en masse considered themselves justified in casting an unjustifiably wide net of Judgment. Caught in that net were many: ranging from bona fide innocents against whom no reasonable person could or ought cast aspersions, like Matthew Shepard, to a whole host of other "collateral-damage" victims of Phelps' quasi-political positions who found themselves the inadvertent and inauspicious targets of his his flock's detestation.
I say again: I find it very, very difficult to summon the normal human compassion that ought to accompany the news of Fred Phelps' passing.
Nevertheless, these are the moments when our inclination toward Schadenfreude, however deeply affirming and deeply satisfactory indulging that sentiment may feel, ought to be on principle squelched.
Today, March 8, is International Women's Day. To celebrate this day, the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women offers a challenge: you can help to raise $10,000 to support the work of the committee. More information here:
The graduate students of the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University, have by a majority vote, adopted the following statement:
We find the alleged behavior of gross professional misconduct recently leveled against a faculty member in our department to be deplorable. Further, we judge that the university has failed our community in the way that they have handled these allegations of gross professional misconduct. In addition, we stand in solidarity with the victim of the aforementioned misconduct, with victims of sexual harassment and violence globally, as well as with their advocates (whom we do not consider to be vigilantes). As students, and educators, we take seriously the wellness of every member of our community. The members of our philosophy department have been genuinely dedicated to promoting inclusiveness at Northwestern, as well as within the broader philosophical community. It is among our highest priorities that we create and sustain a safe environment for all members of our community. In the spirit of these affirmations, we are deeply saddened that a member of our department has been found to be in violation of these moral and professional obligations.
We feel, however, that it bears saying that the behavior outlined in the recent lawsuit leveled against Northwestern is not representative of our sense of the prevailing culture in our department. The overwhelming majority of our community — both professors and graduate students, male and female — are engaged jointly in a project of inclusiveness and mutual support.
Since 2011 our department has maintained a committee to promote and sustain inclusiveness among the graduate student community. Among their duties, the Climate Committee hosts the Annual Inclusiveness Lecture on implicit bias and other issues affecting underrepresented and marginalized groups in the discipline. That same year we also founded an initiative geared towards fostering female undergraduate majors: WiPhi is a female-only group of members of the philosophical community at Northwestern at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, and professors) who regularly meet. WiPhi also hosts the Annual Gertrude Bussey Lecture, in honor of the first woman to receive a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern.
Additionally, our course listings represent our shared commitment to exploring issues of diversity and underrepresentation in the field, and in the broader community at large: Our department makes it a priority to regularly teach courses with substantial feminist philosophy content, as well as substantial focus on issues of race. We, the graduate students, feel that our community is home to several upstanding, vocally feminist, junior and senior faculty members. Our community is committed to fighting the sexism that has long been rampant in the broader philosophical community. And while we jointly feel compelled to express our deep sadness in response to the alleged behavior of a faculty member in our department, we also feel compelled to express our commitment to our community.
As conversations in the discipline concerning the climate for women in philosophy and the role of feminist philosopy in fostering good climate continue, it is worthwhile to pause and honor the good work in feminist philosophy that is being done in various areas in philosophy, such as philosophy of science.
Nominations are now open for the 2014 Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus Prize. The Prize is awarded biennially for the best book, article, or chapter published in English in the area of feminist philosophy of science within the five years prior to each PSA meeting. The winner will receive an award of $500, which will be presented to the winner at the November 2014 PSA meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2014. To be considered, works must have been published between May 1, 2009 and May 1, 2014. Articles posted electronically on journal websites in final (accepted) form prior to May 1, 2014 are eligible for consideration. Self-nominations are allowed but are limited to one per person. One may nominate more than one paper by someone else.
The Gendered Conference Campaign "aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of all-male conferences (and volumes, and summer schools), of the harm that they do." In keeping with that aim, I call your attention to a (so-far) gendered speaker series that raises awareness for this issue in a different way. The University of California at Merced (disclaimer: my place of work) started a Philosophy Speaker Series this year that has so far organized talks for three speakers, all of whom are women (see the calendar and archive here). This was not intentional, but the fact that it is striking to have this sort of line-up reveals that we have some way to go to reach gender parity. Has anyone else come across conferences, speaker series, or summer schools with all-woman line-ups?
Earlier today, the campus announced that Professor Andy Cowell will head our philosophy department at CU-Boulder. Professor Cowell is a professor of French literature and a former chair of two departments, French and Italian and linguistics. This change was made to improve the climate in philosophy for our faculty, staff and students and, specifically, to improve the climate for women.
We have made these changes based upon the recommendations of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in a recent report that we are making public today, as well as on evidence gathered from faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students in the department. That evidence points directly to the need to create a stronger, more inclusive environment in the department for women as scholars and students, that prevents acts of sexual harassment and discrimination, and that allows faculty to work together in a collegial environment of mutual respect.
Over the weekend I was talking to some people about how we might increase the number of women in philosophy. The sad truth is that there still are only around 20 percent women in philosophy jobs. But as has been pointed out numerous times, the problem starts at the undergraduate level. If we could get more women to major in philosophy, there would be a greater pool of female applicants for PhD programs to choose from and more women to hire in tenure-track positions.
Of course, there is a super-simple solution to this problem. Hire more women in TT positions to serve as role models for undergraduate students. Problem: Vicious circle. There aren't enough women to hire. The star programs snap up most of the women on the market. That makes it difficult for less well ranked programs to find women to hire. Or so I am told.
A new site was launched: Women of Philosophy, an online database collecting information about women currently working in philosophy and their research. It has lots of nice features, such as divisions per area (although some seem not to be operational yet), main and secondary areas of expertise per person, as well as personal and PhilPapers websites listed – and all this with an extremely user-friendly layout. It is a brand-new project, so there may well be quite a few women philosophers missing in the database (so go submit your entries!). However, in the long run, it is likely that all the numerous lists of women working in different areas of philosophy scattered around the internet will become superfluous thanks to this database (which is great news! There is much to be said about a unified database such as this one).
Other laudable efforts to promote diversity in philosophy – not only along the gender dimension – are underway: the PhilPapers crew seems to be working on a database to contain all professional philosophers (they do not shy away from big projects!), listed under a number of diversity categories. So more and more, there will be little excuse not to engage in promoting diversity in philosophy, now that there is an increasing number of useful resources available to all.
The Philosophy Department at the University of California, San Diego, is calling for applications for the 2014 Summer Program for Women in Philosophy, which will be held at UCSD from July 28 to August 8, 2014. The two-week program will feature two intensive courses and a variety of workshops, all geared towards providing an engaging philosophical learning experience and preparation for applying to graduate school in philosophy. Participants will be provided with housing and meals, will have transportation costs covered, will have all course and workshop materials provided, and will receive a $600 stipend.
After a recent move and going through my storage facility, I came across the following memo (below the fold--click to enlarge) among some of my late mother’s things. The date is February 19th, 1958, and the author is Nobel Prize winner Polykarp Kush. My mother was then a graduate student in Physics at Columbia University. Do read it for yourself in all its blue mimeographed glory, but the money line is, of course, “If your personal lives are of such complexity that they require a continuing contact with family and friends in time that should be devoted to a serious concern with physics, I very much doubt that you have the makings of a good physicist.” I heard my mother joke about seeing this memo posted in her lab at least a half-dozen times, but I never knew she kept a copy of the memo for fifty years! She left physics with a Masters degree and returned to graduate school to get her PhD in data analysis in the late 70s. She always told the memo-story as if it were a knee-slapper (“Physicists in those days were such characters!”) and she never really mentioned the climate for women as a reason why she left Physics.
I've been invited to take part in a panel on inclusivity in conference and essay collection organizing, to be held at the 2013 APA Eastern. Session GVIII-1, Sunday 11:15 am. Here are my notes. (Comments welcome to me by email too.)
I propose organizers take three steps: 1) reflect; 2) clarify audiences and goals; 3) make invitations.
STEP I. REFLECT. The first thing we need to do is reflect on our normal practices. Unfortunately, it seems many organizers just say to themselves, "let's get the best folks we can on topic X." I think this is so from a common response to a question about a poor inclusivity roster: "well, we tried to invite world-famous Professor X but he / she was busy."
To me this implies that the organizers used some sort of one-dimensional "merit" measure and then rank-ordered the people who come to mind on that axis, starting at the top [of whatever section of the list they thought they could conceivably afford / interest] and working their way down.
Here, I think, is where the implicit bias claim explains just how and why these names "come to mind," thereby perpetuating a positive feedback loop locking in historically over-represented groups across generations.
But this rank-ordering by "merit" also has a questionable metaphysics: it looks to me like "merit" is seen as a property inherent in individuals that can be discerned, extracted, and then compared to others on a single scale.
There is a serious gender problem in philosophy in the Netherlands. In the 11 departments of philosophy the numbers of permanent staff members are roughly the following: assistant professors: 110, of which 25 are women; associate professors: 45, of which 5 are women; full professors: 65, of which 7 are women (I have not included part-time professors; this data is based on the websites of the departments). You may think that this just indicates that women have to work harder to get advanced positions at Dutch universities (i.e. that the problem is only theirs). But there is sufficient evidence now that a gender bias is built into the system. This implies that men are part of the problem and that they will have to take their responsibility. The solution is not easy though. It requires a package of measures. What can we do?
It is always good to raise awareness, but what really helps is to move beyond awareness-raising with a few very simple institutional measures that can be implemented right away. Why not make it a rule that 30% of all invited speakers at conferences are women, or that 30% of the papers in special issues are by female philosophers? The Board of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) will discuss such measures for activities organized by the OZSW later this year. There may of course be exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions need to be justified. Similarly, we should stick to the rule, formally adopted by many universities, that selection committees should include at least two women.
As Co-Chairs of the Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus (PSA-WC), we write to encourage a diversity of paper and symposium proposals for the PSA 2014 meeting, to be held in Chicago, IL in November 2014. Note that the CFPs state, "The PSA 2014 Program Committee will strive for quality, variety, innovation and diversity on the program" and that "The Committee aims to prepare a program that reflects the full range of current work in the philosophy of science."
As PSA-WC Co-Chairs, we hope for submissions from areas that have in the past been traditionally underrepresented at PSA meetings, such as feminist philosophy of science, philosophy of race, philosophy of social science, philosophy of science in practice, history of philosophy of science, and more.