Women in Philosophy Journals: New Data

There are new findings on the presence of women in academic philosophy journals:

  • Though approximately 25% of philosophy faculty in the United States are women, only 14-16% of the articles that appear in the discipline’s top journals are by women.
  • Journals which do not use anonymous review seem to have a higher percentage of women authors than journals which do.
  • The discrepancy between the percentages of women authors and women faculty varies across different areas of philosophy.

These are among the conclusions reported in “New data on the representation of women in philosophy journals: 2004–2015” by Isaac Wilhelm (Rutgers), Sherri Lynn Conklin (UC Santa Barbara), and Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton), forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.

Here is a figure from the article listing the journals included in the study and showing the percentage of contributions by women authors:


from “New data on the representation of women in philosophy journals: 2004–2015” by Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun


The next graph shows the discrepancy in subfields between the percentage of women working in them and the percentage of journal articles by women in them (note: if you are having trouble seeing the entire image, you should be able to click on it to open it in its own tab):

from “New data on the representation of women in philosophy journals: 2004–2015” by Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun

The following shows how the numbers change according to the type of reviewing to which the papers are subject:
About their primary findings, the authors write:


This discrepancy between the percentage of female faculty and the percentage of articles published by women represents another dimension in the gender disparity that permeates academic philosophy, one that has not yet been appreciated. Women are seriously underrepresented in philosophy journals, and this may explain why there are fewer women in the field as one ascends the hierarchy, both in terms of faculty rank and in terms of program reputation.


They also discuss some suggestions for reducing this discrepancy, including


  • encouraging authors to read and cite “all the current literature relevant to one’s area of research” (attributed to Marcus Arvan).
  • having journals “include statements in their instructions for contributors that encourage authors to consider whether they have sought out all the literature, relevant to their topic, that may have been published by women or other individuals from underrepresented groups,” as the Journal of the American Philosophical Association does.
  • applying a “Bechdel Test” to philosophy papers: “A paper that passes this Bechdel Test would cite publications by at least two women philosophers, where at least one of the cited publications is thoughtfully interrogated, and at least one is cited because it discusses the woman’s original work or the work of another woman (and not because she discusses a male philosopher’s work).” (attributed to Helen De Cruz and Eric Schwitzgebel).
  • having editors solicit submissions from women.

One question not addressed in this research, but which I think would be useful to learn the answer to, is whether papers by women fare better in the reviewing process when anonymously reviewed by referees who are women than when anonymously reviewed by referees who are men. Looking into that question might tell us something interesting about gender and philosophical knowledge, and also let us know whether soliciting more women as referees could help address publishing disparities.

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