Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why We Should Care About Women and Philosophy

A request was made in comments when this topic last arose for a discussion of why we should care about the difficulties faced by women in philosophy when everyone has it so rough. If it's tough on everyone, why does it matter if it happens to be tough on these particular people? I thought about it for a while, and at first I was disinclined to take the bait. But then I thought, what the hell. Maybe it's not obvious, even though it sort of seems like it is.

The reason why we should particularly care about women and ethnic minorities when everyone has it rough is this: women and minorities have it rough in all the ways white men do, and then a bunch more ways piled on top. We did some back-of-the-envelope math a couple of years ago, with clear results: the percentage of job market candidates who are women is equal to the percentage of hires that are women. Being a woman seems to be neither a net advantage nor a net impediment to getting a job in philosophy--once you've made it through grad school. This last part bears emphasizing: women face an especially obstacle-laden path to the Ph.D, and then are subject to no special benefit once they finish and are on the job market. This suggests that the female philosophers are as good (if they weren't, they'd get hired less often) and have it as rough the men (on the job market--rougher in grad school); it's just that there are way, way less of them (because they go to grad school less often and drop out more often than do men).

It's hard to get a job in philosophy even if you're a woman, and then there are all these dickheads thoughtless people calling to mind in an especially vivid way how much happier you'd be in a less male-dominated field. Read any of the posts at What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy. Nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me, but it happens to women all the time. Every female philosopher I know has several stories where someone has treated her abominably in a way that directly relates to her gender. Although this sometimes happens to men, too, it is not widespread. And you should ask yourself how much of that kind of shit you'd be willing to take before you started shopping around for a new profession. If you care about justice--if you care about whether people are being treated the way they ought to be treated--you care about this.

But you should also care about this if you care about philosophy in itself; if you care about discovering philosophical truth; if you care about reading insightful philosophy papers; if you care about being made aware of novel philosophical ideas; if you care about solving philosophical puzzles. We should want as many smart people as possible working in philosophy. But a prominent group of people are being systematically edged out. This is bad for the people who are being edged out--it's a serious injustice that I don't mean to minimize--but it's also bad for us men. It is as bad for us as the Negro-League era was for Major League Baseball. Think of it: in 1945, Jackie Robinson tried out for the Boston Red Sox, and the Red Sox did not sign him. So in 1946, when the Red Sox were losing the World Series in 7 games to the Cardinals, Jackie Robinson was playing for the Montreal Royals. This situation was, obviously, extraordinarily bad for black people who wanted to be professional baseball players. It was bad for Cool Papa Bell; it was bad for Josh Gibson; it was bad for Buck O'Neil. These players were victims of a profound injustice. But it was also bad for Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, who were, to a lesser extent, also victims of this injustice. Women and minorities have actual philosophical contributions to make. Many of these contributions are going unmade because the people who would make them are being edged out of the profession before they have a chance to do it. It's not fair to them, and it's not good for us. It's bad for everyone.

--Mr. Zero

58 comments:

Jr TT said...

Damn right. Good post, Mr. Z.

Anonymous said...

"Women and minorities have actual philosophical contributions to make."

Of course, a major problem is that a critical mass of people in philosophy don't really believe this or, perhaps more fairly, doubt that these contributions (in quality and kind) would generally be greater than those from white guys.

So the comparison to the Negro leagues and Jackie Robinson won't go far. Nor can you expect much support for the "it's not good for us [white guys]" line, especially with regard to jobs.

I wish the situation were otherwise. As a member of one of these underrepresented groups, I've called out prominent people (of both sexes) and departments. I've mostly found that even people I thought would know better and care more have as often been part of the problem. (Exhibit A: outreach efforts to women and minorities at the hiring level, almost always made merely to satisfy some university "diversity" mandate.)

Anyway, I appreciate the spirit of your post.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

yes, yes, yes...

And, the criticism of science that lead to Standpoint Epistemology and Strong Objectivity applies equally to philosophy. The philosophical process is shaped by the context of the philosopher. If all the race and gender contexts are identical, the lack of diversity in thought will lead to an incomplete philosophical picture. In fact, this is a more pressing problem for philosophy than for science, as philosophy has no hard data with which to work... it's all ideas and observations, all of which are shaped by the context of the thinker.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear!!!

zombie said...

I think a misunderstanding of the issue sometimes boils down to a (false) belief that women (and/or minorities) are asking for special treatment, for advantages over and above what their white male counterparts are getting. And that leads to some people feeling afraid and threatened. They should be, but not because someone else will be getting special treatment. They should be afraid that they themselves will no longer get the special treatment they've grown accustomed to should the playing field ever get leveled.

Anyway, as Mill pointed out in On the Subjection of Women, it's not like there are so many brilliant minds out there that we can afford to ignore half the human race just because they're women.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Mr. Zero!

Anonymous said...

The situation is not bad (job-wise) for the white male philosopher who remains in the profession at the expense of the woman or minority who doesn't. Perhaps it is bad for his character, though, to have benefitted from an unjust system.

Anonymous said...

"The situation is not bad (job-wise) for the white male philosopher who remains in the profession at the expense of the woman or minority who doesn't."

Wha? The job situation is bad for everyone. Obviously.

Anonymous said...

Why the hell should the justification be that women will have a different perspective on philosophy from men?

I am a woman and an intellectual conservative about a lot things. I tend to side with the so-called male perspective on a lot of theoretical issues, and I don't mind a fight once in a while either.

It is embarrassing to me that the contributions one tends to think of in thinking about women in philosophy cite Standpoint Theory, which I think is utter BS.

We need to figure out not only how to incorporate more women in philosophy, but how to incorporate them into the traditional central fields as well.

Since I do philosophy of language, I really don't need any more female ethicists, feminists, etc. I would like to see more women in philosophy of language.

Think about the fact that there are or were less women in mathematics, science, and engineering than men. Did those disciplines justify encouraging more women so that they could get female perspectives on how to put a bridge together or do a mathematical proof? Probably not.

Personally, many of the methods and justifications I see for incorporating more women into philosophy are, frankly, offensive. For instance, that women bring a diversity of perspective, or that philosophy has been ignoring issues of particular interest to women that may be of philosophical significance. While this may be true, it can't be the primary justification for encouraging women to participate in the discipline. If it were, then since I have nothing to contribute to social and political philosophy or feminist theory, and I don't think that the scientific method or proof theory is phallocentric, then there is no justification for my existence in philosophy, which has got to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I hate joining the chorus, so even though I basically agree with you:
I think there's a completely different reply that makes more sense. Sure, everyone on the job market has it rough. Why would that mean we shouldn't care about repulsive treatment of women in philosophy? It's just a non sequitur. As if someone said, malaria kills millions in Africa so we shouldn't care about prostate cancer.

On the other hand, wtf anon 2:51? *I* doubt that philosophy contributions of women "would generally be greater than those from white guys." Absent strong evidence to the contrary, I figure they'd be equal. And did you make a mistake in writing your Exhibit A? Or why did you "call out" people for reaching out to women and minorities to satisfy a diversity requirement? You were questioning their motives?

Anonymous said...

". . . the white male philosopher who remains in the profession at the expense of the woman or minority who doesn't."

As a non-sexist and progressive white male philosopher, I fail to see how I'm remaining in the profession at anyone's expense. This kind of inflammatory nonsense, on the other hand, hurts everyone in it.

Anonymous said...

"We should want as many smart people as possible working in philosophy. But a prominent group of people are being systematically edged out."

It seems that the first statement is undermined by affirmative action (at least in principle).

The second statement seems to just be not true, or at best, hyperbole. The discussion about women in philosophy always seems to push into hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

For those who think there is some sort of affirmative action going on in philosophy: you have got to be kidding me. Just count the number of tenured women at US top-ten Leiter schools vs. the number of tenured men at those schools. Then, go ahead, count them in the top schools from other countries.

The female:male ration is terrible, especially since there have been significant numbers of talented women getting PhDs in philosophy for at least the last 15 years. Conclusion: you should think there is discrimination rather than affirmative action. Unless you think that women aren't as good as men at philosophy. Then you are just a sexist git.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6:13AM

Hmmm. Being supportive of equality myself, whatever that consists in, I have to wonder: suppose it were objectively true that women were worse at philosophy than men, rather than merely being perceived that way, or having so-called unjust standards applied to them, like, say, the law of non-contradiction. It still doesn't follow that only men should be doing it. It depends on what the cause of this fact was, and on whether it is unalterable or incorrigible. Wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:19 AM

If you are going to write with such assurance about hyperbole, perhaps some actual data would be helpful.

Here are some stats on women in philosophy: http://www.uh.edu/~cfreelan/SWIP/stats.html

Note the representation of women in philosophy is comparable at least on some measures with the representation of women in physics and is out of line with the representation of women in the humanities.

Here is an excellent review of some relevant social science literature:

http://www.barnard.edu/bcrw/newfeministsolutions/reports/NFS2-Women_Work_and_the_Academy.pdf

Anonymous said...

6:13, give me a break.
Of COURSE there is some sort of affirmative action in philosophy hiring. I've been on a search committee. I know for a fact that there are special efforts made to find qualified women, special justifications needed (for deans) when a woman in the Qualified Applicant pool is not offered the job, and so on. This isn't in doubt, and I'm quite certain I'm not the only one who's had this experience.
You seem to be saying that if there really is affirmative action, and yet women are underrepresented, this means that women aren't as good as men at philosophy. That's just lousy reasoning. There is a really obvious alternative explanation: there simply aren't as many qualified women in the applicant pool as there are qualified men. No doubt there are many reasons for this, and the more important ones have been discussed on this blog (and I have no quarrel with what's been said here, I fully agree).

But really, there is affirmative action for women in philosophy hiring. Denying this just makes you look clueless.

(There is discrimination *rather than* affirmative action?? Uh, there couldn't be, you know, *both*?)

Anonymous said...

@7:14am

No, the whole "there aren't enough qualified women" line is part of the discrimination. The point is that the standards applied to women are higher: in particular, they are much less likely to be ascribed to have long term "potential" and their published contributions are taken less seriously.

Anonymous said...

@7:14:

the point was about discrimination in hiring versus affirmative action in hiring.

@6:58:

I agree that it is important to look at all the possible causes of the underrepresentation of women in philosophy. And I also really liked Mr. Zero's post.

Anonymous said...

6:13, that doesn't seem to follow. It's possible (and consistent with my experience) that there is both affirmative action and significant discrimination such that the presence of affirmative action does not lead to an unfair advantage by women overall on the job market. We should resist the temptation to conflate "affirmative action" with "unfair advantage."

(It's also perfectly consistent to believe that affirmative action is necessary and that the women who are hired are just as philosophically qualified as the men; as always bears repeating, the talent field is deep, and the task of finding a colleague who fits the need of the department is not identical to the task of anointing the shiny star of the year. There are lots of ways to be an excellent philosopher and a better or worse fit.)

zombie said...

Speaking anecdotally, I look at the faculty of every department I'm applying to for a job. They represent a range of schools, from SLACs to research universities. Out of 40 applications I've done so far this season, only ONE department had more women than men. It is the really rare department that has an equal number of men and women (and even rarer that some of those faculty are non-white). And then there are the ones that are white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, and white guy.

So I look at those departments and think, they really need to get some women and people of color up in there. Why haven't they?

Anon 7:14 -- what you're calling affirmative action is not AA as it is generally understood. Just making an effort to get women to apply for jobs, if they are not going to ultimately get those jobs, is not AA. (Look, I 've seen those ads. Just saying that you encourage women and minorities to apply is nothing. It's adding legally required boilerplate at the bottom of your ad. That. Is. Not. Affirmative. Action.) Having to "justify" NOT hiring a woman from the qualified applicants is not AA. There are all kinds of hidden/latent/blatant biases at work in search committees -- the importance of "fit" in the hiring process is just one of them. (Would this Asian woman "fit" in our department of all white men?) Everybody has biases, whether they recognize them or not. (Would this straight white man "fit" in our women's studies department? Would Dr Rich Whitey "fit" with our Black Studies dept? Can he possibly be qualified to do Black Studies?) The point of AA is to weed out those biases, to compensate for them, and in the process, eliminate them. And hire some damn women and minorities, not just pay lip service to the idea of hiring them.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:19: You might try reading more carefully.

I'm all for diversity or affirmative action hiring in philosophy. What I reject is the common practice of bad faith "outreach" efforts to get women and minorities to apply. The notion that such efforts generally reflect a commitment to actually hiring a woman or minority is false.

You can look at anon 7:14 for Exhibit B: He or she screams: "Of COURSE there is some sort of affirmative action in philosophy hiring.... I know for a fact that there are special efforts made to find qualified women...." (Thank goodness the ones they're purportedly trying to find are "qualified," maybe even well qualified.)

The confusion here is standard in the philosophy profession. Affirmative action is (wrongly) taken to consist in making "special efforts" to get more applications from women and minorities--not in actually hiring a woman or minority. Why do this, apart from self-deception? Because most departments have to do something to satisfy the university's "diversity" office.

In fact, the subsequent failure to hire a woman or minority is often cited (literally, in department reports, which sometimes can be found online) as evidence of the "alternative explanation": "there simply aren't as many qualified women in the applicant pool as there are qualified men."

Never mind that there is an oversupply of qualified candidates in philosophy, women and men. Departments usually take themselves to be seeking the "most highly qualified" (they can get). Some of us know how that comparison almost always goes for women and minorities. Call the dubious mechanism what you will.

Anonymous said...

@November 3, 2010 7:22 PM

"it's not like there are so many brilliant minds out there that we can afford to ignore half the human race just because they're women."

Fair point, but a proviso: unless they are women from non-English speaking countries and departments. In which case we should continue to ignore that three quarters of the human race, of course

Anonymous said...

Anon 3.15 makes an excellent point. I'd like to restate it in my own blunt way:

Considerations of justice should motivate inclusiveness in hiring, not the sexist/racist notion that women/non-whites think differently or have different interests.

Let's avoid inadvertently reinforcing the very prejudice that keep women/non-whites out of the discipline.

zombie said...

Anon 852, I'm not sure about your math, but I'm pretty sure that the half of the human race that women make up includes women from the entire world, not just English speakers.

I'm pretty sure non-english speaking men have done pretty well in philosophy over the centuries. Better, I should think, than the English speakers. So, not sure what language has to do with it.

But maybe what you're implying is that philosophers, male or female, from the non-Western world have been systematically ignored. In which case, I agree with you. But since American institutions of higher learning are looking for English speaking faculty, non-english speakers will be at a disadvantage. I don't think that's an unfair disadvantage. I can't get a job teaching in France b/c I don't speak French. (What would be bad, in the case of language, is if the profession systematically ignored the work of philosophers who don't speak or write in English, refused to translate their work, etc. But it's pretty clear that hasn't happened, isn't it?)

Babe said...

I'm Anon 7:14, but this is going to get too confusing, so let me adopt the name "Babe" (just because my posting time is 714).


No, the whole "there aren't enough qualified women" line is part of the discrimination


Wait, what does "enough" mean here? My claim is that there aren't as many qualified women as there are qualified men. And this explains (well, partly) why there aren't as many women hired as men.

the point was about discrimination in hiring versus affirmative action in hiring.

Yes. And I pointed out that that's a false dichotomy. Now it's your turn.

Zombie,

Anon 7:14 -- what you're calling affirmative action is not AA as it is generally understood. Just making an effort to get women to apply for jobs, if they are not going to ultimately get those jobs, is not AA.

I disagree, but in any case it would be silly for me to make a big deal out of the terminology.

In the 1960s and 70s, a huge obstacle for women in academia (in general) was the Old Boy Network. In the 70s, some universities adopted measures to ensure that women applicants at least got a fair look, and that the process would at least give women a shot. Departments, at some universities, were required to show that they had made an effort to encourage women applicants, and that they did really look carefully at those applications, and so on. (This was indeed called "affirmative action", but again I don't mean to be making a fuss about the term.) This change was genuinely important.

Of course, it is not the only important thing, so if I seemed to imply that it was, my apologies. But if you think it's just "lip service", or whatever, you should talk to women who were on the academic job market in the early 70s.

Anonymous said...

Babe:

Re discrimination in hiring versus affirmative action in hiring. When an actual hire is made, women are often discriminated against in the decision process, not promoted using affirmative action in the decision process.

That's why it might seem (to those who discriminate) that there are so few (or no?) suitably qualified candidates in the pool. That's one of the main reasons why the percentage of women in top jobs is significantly lower than the percentage of women getting PhDs in philosophy.

That there could be discrimination in other ways is certainly possible, but not relevant to the point, making your claim about a false dichotomy either false or irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm in favor of preferential treatment for women in philosophy. Here are some (half-baked) thoughts:

* Philosophical meritocracy will never be achieved without the profession becoming a comfortable place for women. And I suspect that will never happen without giving women preferential treatment for a time, just so that the numbers improve and there's a fighting chance of eventually changing the environment. If we see meritocracy as a long-term goal, one that (due to its self-effacingness) cannot reasonably be adhered to as a inflexible principle, then I think this just makes sense.

* I doubt preferential treatment would even depart from pure meritocracy that much. Women in philosophy are forced by circumstance to be pretty tough customers, and I suspect they'll work really hard and rise to the occasion if they find an opportunity to prove themselves. Doing good philosophy is about drive and commitment and hard work as much as anything else, and thus it can make good sense to give someone a chance, even if you have doubts about their current level of philosophical skill.

* Smart meritocrats compensate for their own biases: if you know you tend to undervalue women, it's only reasonable to give women a small edge in your decisions. And since it seems almost certain that nearly everyone in philosophy (men and women alike) tend to undervalue women, simply due to (perhaps unconscious) cultural biases, it's only reasonable to give women an edge.

I think those points would have force even if the profession were composed of well-behaved individuals. But since the profession includes lots of sexually aggressive lunatics and misogynistic creeps, the points have even more force.

Anonymous said...

yeah, totes 4:24. because the belief that this fraking joke of a "market" is somehow a meritocracy seems to correlate highly with the belief that dudes are the best philosophers EVAR.

also, it will never fail to amuse? disturb? terrify? me how such otherwise smart and talented and lovely people become so pig-headedly stupid around this issue. as if there isn't research on this. as if women and people of color are somehow just making it all up. read a book, ya'll, for serious. might i suggest starting with linda alcoff?

and so, in conclusion, thanks msr z.

Anonymous said...

Every Internet Discussion of Sexism Ever.

Anonymous said...

Word, 6:16. I especially liked use of the term "preferential treatment"--which, of course, had been coined by conservatives to make clear and defend the reality of "meritocratic" practices that happen to overwhelmingly benefit white men.

But even with the "reverse" preferences and outreach efforts in philosophy, the numbers and stations are still highly skewed. Damn, those underrepresented people with PhDs must be seriously less qualified. Maybe, somehow, the profession might get better ones in the pipeline some day. Who knows why more don't try?

Anonymous said...

The APA newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy shows that the proportion of women getting philosophy jobs is roughly equivalent to the proportion of women getting philosophy PhD's.
http://www.apaonline.org/publications/newsletters/v08n2_Feminism_05.aspx

Deliberate discrimination in favour of one or another race or sex is obviously morally wrong.

It is sad that some women who not so long ago were the victims of serious sex discrimination and quite rightly fought against it, and for equality; are now fighting *for* sex discimination - in favour of women...

Anonymous said...

How could I be sexist? My mom is a woman.

Alright, let's get back to waiting for tomorrow's job postings to see the dozen positions no one we knows will get.

Anonymous said...

@November 4, 2010 7:18 PM:

You write: "Deliberate discrimination in favour of one or another race or sex is obviously morally wrong."

But, unless I'm missing something, that's simply a textbook case of begging the question.

Anonymous said...

@November 4, 2010 6:57 PM:

Did you actually read the comment that used the phrase "preferential treatment"? It was in favor of getting more women into philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:18, your link doesn't seem to be working. In any case, the discussion regarding affirmative action was not about any job whatsoever, but about the paucity of tenured women in top research departments. Those are obviously not the only jobs that matter, but the very low numbers of women in those jobs compared to the numbers of women who have been getting PhDs for the past 20 years is telling.

Anonymous said...

Are women philosophers significantly disadvantaged? Let us try to take an *objective* look at the arguments (and try to avoid selection effects, implicit bias etc).

1)There is some evidence that *ordinary* men have a tendency to underrate women – for instance ranking their CV’s lower than equivalent CV’s in men. However the same experiments have not been repeated on male philosophers. Philosophers are trained to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc.. Thus there is every reason to think that philosophers will not be subject to such unconscious biases. Those who think they will, are like people who think that just because a proportion of the population make certain simple mathematical errors, then so will maths professors.
Thus there is no justification for assuming male philosophers on search committees have an implicit bias against women; and so no justification for them intentionally favouring women in an attempt to overcome some non-existence unconscious bias. To do so would be morally wrong. Of course they should make a big effort to make sure they are not unconsciously biases, and to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc. to ensure they get the best candidate regardless of race, sex, disability etc.

2)It is bad that women have to give the brush off to male professors, grad students etc who show a shallow sexual interest in them (I take it that if one of them genuinely falls in love with her then that is not blameworthy, and is a qualitatively different type of case). However by grad school women have had ten years experience of brushing off male sexual advances – it is not a big deal. So whilst it must be a pain for them, it is not something that would put them off philosophy. After all, they will have the same experience everywhere else, so this does not provide grounds for moving from philosophy into business, law etc!

3)Plus, I have to say that if a professor spent time with me talking about philosophy just because she was attracted to me, where I found that philosophical conversation stimulating and educational, I would feel that I benefited overall from the interaction even if I had to turn down an invite for coffee etc at the end of the conversation.

4)There are many advantages to being a woman philosopher:
a.Female grad students often get more supervision, mentoring etc because on the one hand other females feel obliged to make a special effort to help females (male professors do not feel the same type of duty towards male students); and also male professors (who are mainly heterosexual) enjoy the company of young women so are more inclined to spend time with them than with young males; plus male philosophers have been convinced by the propaganda that women are disadvantaged so feel they ought to make a special effort with women.
b.Generally women who go to conferences come back with loads of contacts – as just mentioned, women profs are anxious to help the sisterhood and men profs like contact with young women and feel they ought to make a special effort to help them. It is much more difficult for a male grad student to exchange emails etc with busy male and female profs who feel no special urge or duty to help them.
c.The tests for implicit gender bias that I have seen published have all been done on paper (ie judging CVs etc). It is entirely possible that this mechanism works in reverse when a male is confronted by a female in person. Thus, when a male prof finds a young woman philosopher’s job talk and interview stimulating and enjoyable, it might well be that subconscious considerations are working in her favour.


[continued in next post]

Anonymous said...

7:18,

The fact that women on the job market are currently doing about as well as men in securing jobs means that the AA policies currently in place all over are counter-balancing actual discrimination against women on the job market. This is an argument against AA how?

Long story short: once on the job market you're about as likely to be screwed over for being a man (AA pressures) as for being a woman (subconscious devaluing, worries about "fit"). These are the "facts on the ground" that the report implies.

Anonymous said...

5) I have heard plenty of horror stories from male grad students about being badly treated – one of the worst being my own experience. And I know female grad students who have not had serious problems (my girlfriend for instance reports nothing untoward during her studies). Doubtless they suffer more than men from unwanted sexual advances, however as mentioned above, whilst doubtless wrong and a pain for the woman, there is no reason to think these are such a big deal. There is undoubtedly a tendency for women to think that, when they are badly treated, it is ‘because they are a woman’. But this might not be the case. It might simply be that grad students, profs etc are routinely badly treated by others. This is bad, and everyone in philosophy should strive improve their character and treatment of others. However it should not be assumed that women grad students and profs have things worse than men. Indeed it may even be that they have things better.
6) In conclusion, I cannot see any grounds for sex discrimination/‘affirmative action’ in favour of women in hiring or promotion.

I am committed to truth and to doing what is right, so if I have made an error in my reasoning above I am happy to be corrected.

Clearly there should be no sex discrimination, sexual harrassment etc anywhere - including in philosophy departments. And we should all work to eliminate it. However I am concerned about the number of women and men who think we should be actively biased towards women in job hiring and promotion. I do not think that the case for this has been proven, as I argue below. Considering that such bias is prima facie morally repugnant, and considering that this bias often ruins the lives of those who are the victims of it it should be rejected unless and until there is firm evidence of it in philosophy. Here is a way to get firm evidence one way or another.


Finally, here is a way to *measure* whether women are being discriminated against in hiring:
1) Obtain the dossiers of everyone given a tenure track job last year; along with all those who got non-tenure track jobs (who might, as a reasonable approximation, be taken to be the set constituted by the next best candidates).
2) Make the CVs, letters etc anonymous/sex neutral.
3) Then rank them.
4) See whether the ranking corresponds to the job invites.

zombie said...

Key Conclusions (from APA)

• There is little, if any, attrition of women between undergraduate majors and PhD graduates.

• The percentage of women granted PhD’s in philosophy has been static for at least ten years at around 28%.

• If women PhD’s are regularly being hired in proportion to their numbers, and retained at the same rate as men, we should see a rise in their numbers in the profession to 28% (their numbers are around 21%).

• The percentage of women in philosophy is at a noteworthy point. The number of women PhD’s is above 25% (which is the “tipping point” for gender schemas, see Valian 1998) but the number of women employed in the profession is below 25%.

• The percentage of women with PhD’s academically employed is significantly less than the percentage of PhD’s granted to women in all fields. That is, there is more attrition of women than of men from the academy after the PhD. The situation of women in philosophy is comparable to the situation of women in the physical sciences (around 28% of PhD’s and 20% of academic positions).

So,
Women are NOT hired in proportion to the number of PhDs. The number of women getting PhDs is significantly lower than the number of men getting PhDs. Why is that? Maybe because PhD granting departments are hostile to women? Maybe because there aren't many women teaching philosophy? Maybe because, rightly, women believe they won't be able to get jobs as philosophers?
Women are also underrepresented in journals.

All of which tells us: women be underrepresented in the profession.

Is the goal here 100% employment of women philosophers? Nope. There's never going to be 100% employment for anyone in philosophy. But proportional representation would be a start. Proportional representation doesn't imply preferential treatment for women, unless you believe that a lot of those women are unqualified, or underqualified compared to men. But that's the dirty little lie of opponents of AA -- it's anti-meritocratic, and gives jobs to the unqualified, leaving poor highly qualified men without jobs.

White men have been the beneficiaries of "affirmative action" in the academy for centuries. The spawn of rich people are still the beneficiaries of affirmative action in academe -- George Bush went to Harvard and Yale. Because he's so intelligent, right?

Anonymous said...

@November 5, 2010 4:27 AM:

"Philosophers are trained to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc.. Thus there is every reason to think that philosophers will not be subject to such unconscious biases."

This has got to be sarcasm, right?

"Those who think they will, are like people who think that just because a proportion of the population make certain simple mathematical errors, then so will maths professors."

This an excellent point, although the accent is wrong. It's true that just because something's statistically characteristic of the _human_ population, that gives us no reason to believe it's characteristic of the _academic_ population.

Mr. Zero said...

Philosophers are trained to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc.. Thus there is every reason to think that philosophers will not be subject to such unconscious biases.

This idea comes up a lot. I think it's an unjustifiable piece of professional vanity. Is there any *empirical evidence* that suggests that philosophers are less subject to unconscious biases? Are you relying on the results of a well-designed scientific study whose results have been replicated? Or are you just making the a priori assumption that because philosophers have training in virtue of which they know the difference between denying the antecedent and denying the consequent that their training must also make them impervious to the Semmelweiss reflex, or the Dunning-Kruger effect, or anchoring, or the Bias blind spot? I don't see why it would.

Thus there is no justification for assuming male philosophers on search committees have an implicit bias against women

Are you sure you're "trained to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc"? Because you're arguing from the premise that *this is not a justification for p* to the conclusion that *there is no justification for p*. Doesn't follow.

Mr. Zero said...

Zombie,

I accidentally published a bunch of near-duplicate comments from you. If you want me to delete some, let me know which ones. (That way you can select the comments which you think best express your ideas.)

Anonymous said...

Anon. 4:27 / 4:41 wins the self-deception prize.

Anonymous said...

I just love it when philosophers think that because we are trained to be 'careful thinkers' that we are immune to implicit bias. Seriously? It is true that _some_ of the implicit bias literature has been done on the standard study organism in psychology, undergrads, hence perhaps the idea that "ordinary men" display implicit bias.

But,
1) much of this literature, especially that regarding the undervaluing of women's vita's was done on psychology professors. Folks who are well educated, and in fact might be more likely to be aware of issues of bias and hence correct for them, than many others
2) the implicit bias literature does not single out men as being the only biased group. Women also display this bias against other women. this issue is of bias against those who do not fit gender norms--ie women philosophers, etc.

Read the dang literature! The arrogance of philosophers never fails to astound me. By the way, physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers who I work with also often make the claim that they are trained in the careful analysis of data and so would not be likely to impacted by implicit bias.

It is amazing the number of groups of people who are willing to argue that they are 'special' and hence the data does not apply to them. Get over yourselves. Humility is an underrated virtue.

zombie said...

Mr Zero, I think you can delete 5:36 and 5:37, as they are repeated below. Something happened when I posted -- I was told that the post was too long, so had to break it into two posts. But apparently they all went through anyway.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Zombie,

I deleted 1 at 5:36 and 2 at 5:37.

This happens a lot. For future reference, if you get the "too long" message, post it anyway, and wait to see if it comes up. It probably will.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason that I know of to think that philosophers are any better than anyone else at avoiding unconscious bias. Worse, we think we are such awesome reasoners that we think these biased judgments are especially clear-sighted and rational.

Anonymous said...

no kidding, anon 7:42. how exactly do you start out with "let's avoid selection effects and implicit bias and be objective" and end up in "lots of my friends are male graduate students, and they are treated badly, so women are either wrong or lying about their experience of their own lives"?!?! and how can you make an effort to not have unconscious biases anyway? they are unconscious, people! try to keep up here.

also, as to point 4: certainly this sounds like a possibility. however there is no evidence to support any of these points. evidence actually points to women having less mentoring and feel isolated in the profession (women who leave often cite this as a reason).

finally, as to point 3, please do not purport to decide for women when they find sexual harassment "a big deal" and when they do not. also, your "intuitions" or whatever about how you would feel about being sexually harassed are not relevant. also also, it is not in fact the case that sexual harassment is just as bad everywhere else - the data i have seen suggest that it is worse in philosophy than in other fields. regardless of the truth of such a claim, it's a cute way of absolving philosophy from any responsibility in cleaning up its own house.

Anonymous said...

> "Let us try to take an *objective*
> look at the arguments (and try
> to avoid selection effects, implicit
> bias etc).

This series of posts is awesome in its self-refuting brilliance. I am in awe.

> It is entirely possible that

Not often seen as a synonym for "It is thus empirically the case that", but there you go.

> Finally, here is a way to *measure*
> whether women are being discriminated
> against in hiring:
> 1) Obtain the dossiers of everyone
> given a tenure track job last year;
> along with all those who got
> non-tenure track jobs (who might,
> as a reasonable approximation,
> be taken to be the set constituted
> by the next best candidates).
> 2) Make the CVs, letters etc
> anonymous/sex neutral.
> 3) Then rank them.
> 4) See whether the ranking corresponds
> to the job invites.

I am at a loss to explain why no-one has done this before. Nor can I possibly come up with any objections to the proposed study. Let's do it!

- OBTAIN THE DOSSIERS!
- It shall be done, sir, at once sir!
- NOW RANK THEM!
- I shall fire up the Rankotron 5000 immediately, sir.
- THE ANSWER IS NOW BEFORE US!
- Shall I get Larry Summers on the phone, sir?

Anonymous said...

In the unfortunate event that the Rankotron 5000 breaks, I propose that the philosophy profession continue to deflect its issues with women and minorities.

Underrepresentation now, underrepresentation tomorrow, underrepresentation forever!

zombie said...

Not to belabor the obvious here, but ranking the dossiers of only those candidates who GOT jobs last year will not tell you if women are discriminated against in hiring. You would have to rank the dossiers of every candidate who did not get a job as well. What you would find, as has been stated here frequently in the last few weeks, is plenty of well-qualified candidates who did not get jobs. And it would tell you nothing about why those candidates did not get jobs, because many of them did not get jobs just because there are not enough jobs to go around.

Yes, philosophers are impeccable at reasoning, and we have secret powers with which to detect implicit and unconscious biases. And also x-ray vision with which to peer into the souls of lesser mortals.

Anonymous said...

Philosophers have X-ray vision? Shit. One more thing for women in philosophy to worry about.

zombie said...

I said "x-ray vision with which to peer into the souls of lesser mortals." Ergo, women have nothing to worry about, since they obviously have no souls. I'm surely Msr Descartes would back me up on that.

Anonymous said...

@November 5, 2010 4:27 AM, November 5, 2010 4:41 AM:

1. It's a bit silly to think philosophers are exempt from widespread undervaluing of women, especially given how observably misogynistic the profession is.
2. The sexual harassment goes far beyond having to occasionally turn someone down. You should have a look at http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/ and talk to some of your female colleagues.
3. Sexual harassment is not commonly accompanied by fruitful philosophical conversation.
4. The 'advantages' you mention seem grounded in fantasy. The profession has a marked tendency to take men more seriously than women.
5. This point does not stand up to empirical scrutiny: again, look at the blog and talk to some female philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps in the US, it is the case that the percentage of women being hired is proportional to the percentage of women getting PhDs. Not so in many other parts of the world. To give the example of the small European country I come from, some faculties that I am familiar with.
- university A: percentage of white males: 100 % (faculty about 30)
- university B: percentage of white males: 100 % (faculty about 10)
- university C: percentage of white males: 80 % (faculty about 15)
- university D: percentage of white males: 85 % (faculty about 20).
I hasten to add that the percentage of women obtaining a PhD in philosophy is about 40 % in this country.
You do see this balance at postdoc (temporary) positions and at poorly paid teaching assistantships. But in order to get tenure, it is still a matter of old boys networks. So I don't see how Affirmative Action plays a role here. But when women apply for something, their male colleagues say to them that they have a more than fair chance because there is affirmative action (dreadfully, many of the institutions call themselves 'equal opportunity employers', including one of those that have a 100 % male faculty!

nrh said...

I think the regulative ideal that guides our intuitions about just how many women in the profession there has to be before we can stop calling the process discriminatory is proportional representation. But proportional to which ratio?

(in increasingly narrow segments of the world population)

a) the male/female ratio world population? (ie. 50/50ish)
b) the male/female ratio of those holding undergraduate degrees? (i think 40/60?)
b) the male/female ratio of those holding undergraduate degrees in philosophy? (ie: ??)
c) the male/female ratio of those holding graduate degrees? (??)
d) the male/female ratio of those holding graduate degrees in philosophy? (ie: ??)
e) the male/female ratio of those on the phil. job market in a given year? (ie: ??)
f) the male/female ratio of those philosophers with jobs? (probably not this one, just including it for completeness)

On which proportion ought we to model our intuitions about representation? Seriously, I don't know and I'm curious about what others think.

Anonymous said...

"Philosophers are trained to stand back, reason clearly, be dispassionate, judge objectively etc.. Thus there is every reason to think that philosophers will not be subject to such unconscious biases."

Let's play some jeopardy.

A: Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant.

Q: Who are three brilliant philosophers who had terribly sexist opinions of women, despite their reasoning capabilities.

nrh said...

*facepalm*