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Women in philosophy

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Title: Women in philosophy  
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Women in philosophy

Women have engaged in philosophy throughout the field's history. The American Philosophical Association has a Committee on the Status of Women which is charged with assessing and reporting on the status of women in the field. [1]


  • APA Committee on the Status of Women 1
  • Society for Women in Philosophy 2
  • Gendered Conference Campaign 3
  • Bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment 4
  • Reports on Women in Philosophy 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

APA Committee on the Status of Women

The Committee on the Status of Women is a part of the American Philosophical Association devoted to the assessment and reporting on the status of women in philosophy. [2] It is currently chaired by Hilde Lindemann [3] In April 2007, Committee on the Status of Women co-sponsored session on the central question "Why Are Women Only 21% of Philosophy". [4] At this session, Sharon Crasnow suggested that the low numbers of women in philosophy may be due to

  • A) Differential Treatment: male and female students being treated differently in the classroom.
  • B) Vicious Circle: female students do not feel inclined to do philosophy because of a lack of contact with female professors.
  • C) Misleading Stats: administrators focus on the humanities overall which obscures the disparity in philosophy. [5]

Society for Women in Philosophy

The Society for Women in Philosophy is a group created in 1972 that seeks to support and promote women in philosophy. It has a number of branches around the world, including in New York, the American Pacific, the United Kingdom, and Canada. [6]Each year, the Society for Women in Philosophy names one philosopher the Distinguished Woman Philosopher of the Year.[7]

Gendered Conference Campaign

The blog Feminist Philosophers hosts the Gendered Conference Campaign, which works toward increasing the representation of women at conferences and in edited volumes, citing that "all-male events and volumes help to perpetuate the stereotyping of philosophy as male. This in turn to contributes to implicit bias against women in philosophy...."[8]

Bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment

On March 28, 2011, the blog New APPS published a post examining the persistent sexual harassment faced by women in philosophy, due largely to "serial harassers" continuing to work in the field despite widespread knowledge of their actions. The post proposed that, since institutional procedures seemed to have been ineffective at removing or punishing harassers, philosophers socially shun known offenders.[9] The story was subsequently featured at Inside Higher Ed[10] and several blogs, including Gawker[11] and Jezebel.[12]

Reports on Women in Philosophy

U.S. Department of Education reports indicate that philosophy is one of the least proportionate fields in the humanities with respect to gender.[13] Although reports indicate that philosophy as a professional field is disproportionately male, no clear, unequivocal data exists on the number of women currently in philosophy, or indeed, on the number of men in philosophy, and it is debatable how to define what it means to be ‘in philosophy.’ This can variously be defined as the current number of Ph.D. holders in philosophy, the current number of women teaching philosophy in two- and four- year institutions of higher learning either/both full-time and/or part-time (no one data set exists which measures these), or the current number of living women with publications in philosophy. The lack of clear data makes it difficult to establish gender proportions, but the consensus among those who have tried to arrive at an estimate is that women make up between 17% and 30% of academically employed philosophers.[14]

The National Center for Education Statistics' 2000 report, "Salary, Promotion, and Tenure Status of Minority and Women Faculty in U.S. Colleges and Universities," estimates in Table 23 that the total number of “History and Philosophy” U.S. citizens and full-time faculty who primarily taught in 1992 was 19,000, of which 79% were men (i.e. 15,010 men in history and philosophy), 21% were women (3,990). They add, "In fact, men were at least twice as likely as women to teach history and philosophy."[15]

In their 1997 report, "Characteristics and Attitudes of Instructional Faculty and Staff in the Humanities," NCES notes, that about "one-half of full-time instructional faculty and staff in 4-year institutions in English and literature (47 percent) and foreign languages (50 percent) were female in the fall of 1992, compared with less than one-half of instructional faculty and staff in history (24 percent) and philosophy and religion (13 percent) (table 4).” In this report they measure Philosophy and Religion in the same data set, and estimate the total number of full-time instructional Philosophy and Religion faculty and staff in 4-yr institutions to be 7,646. Of these, 87.3% are male (6675 men), 12.7 are female (971 women).[16]

The 1997 report measures History Full-time instructional faculty and staff in 4-yr institutions to be 11,383; male:76.3 (8,686 men); female: 23.7 (2,697 women). The numbers of women in philosophy from the two studies are not easily comparable, but one rough method may be to subtract the number of women in history in the 1997 report from the number of women estimated to be in 'history and philosophy' in the 2000 report. Doing so suggests that as a rough estimate, 1,293 women are employed as instructors of philosophy.

The 1997 report indicates that a large portion of all humanities instructors are part-time.[17] Part-time employees are disproportionately female but not majority female.[18] Therefore, considerations of full-time employees only necessarily leave out data on many women working part-time to remain active in their field.

In 2004, the percentage of Ph.D.s in philosophy, within the U.S., going to women reached a record high percentage: 33.3%, or 121 of the 363 doctorates awarded.[19]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ SWIP Website
  7. ^
  8. ^ Gendered Conference Campaign « Feminist Philosophers. (2009-12-10). Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
  9. ^ What is to be done about sexual harassment in the philosophy profession? – New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science. (2011-03-28). Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
  10. ^ News: A Call to Shun. Inside Higher Ed (2011-05-27). Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
  11. ^ Philosophy Departments Are Full of Sexual Harassment. (2011-03-30). Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
  12. ^ Anna North, Philosophy Profs Propose "Shunning" Sexual Harassers, Jezebel, Mar 30, 2011
  13. ^ “Salary, Promotion, and Tenure Status of Minority and Women Faculty in U.S. Colleges and Universities.”National Center for Education Statistics, Statistical Analysis Report, March 2000; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Research and Improvement, Report # NCES 2000–173;1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:93). See also “Characteristics and Attitudes of Instructional Faculty and Staff in the Humanities.” National Center For Education Statistics, E.D. Tabs, July 1997. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Research and Improvement, Report # NCES 97-973;1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF-93).
  14. ^ U.S. Department of Education statistics in above-cited reports seem to put the number closer to 17%, but these numbers are based on data from the mid-1990s. Margaret Urban Walker's more recent article (2005) discusses the data problem and describes more recent estimates as an "(optimistically projected) 25–30 percent."
  15. ^ NCES (2000), previously cited.
  16. ^ NCES (1997), previously cited.
  17. ^ NCES (1997): “Forty-two percent of all instructional faculty and staff were employed part time by their institution in the fall of 1992. Forty-five percent of [all U.S.] humanities faculty were employed part time.”
  18. ^ NCES (1997): "Part-time faculty members were more likely to be female (45 percent) than full-time faculty (33 percent), although the majority of both part- and full-time faculty were male (55 percent and 67 percent, respectively."
  19. ^ Hoffer, T.B., V. Welch, Jr., K. Williams, M. Hess, K. Webber, B. Lisek, D. Loew, and I. Guzman-Barron. 2005. Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2004. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center. (The report gives the results of data collected in the Survey of Earned Doctorates, conducted for six federal agencies, NSF, NIH, USED, NEH, USDA, and NASA by NORC.)

Further reading

  • Singing in the Fire: Stories of Women in Philosophy by Linda Martin Alcoff. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003.

External links

  • Tenured/tenure-track faculty women at 98 U.S. doctoral programs in philosophy on a website maintained by Julie Van Camp, a professor of philosophy at California State University – Long Beach
  • The blog "What is it like to be a Woman in Philosophy?" collects "short observations" submitted by readers regarding women's experiences, both positive and negative, in the field of philosophy.
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