The following is a guest post* by Maggie Dalecki (Manitoba), Meena Krishnamurthy (Michigan), Shen-yi Liao (Puget Sound), and Monique Deveaux (Guelph), based on research presented in “The Underrepresentation of Women in Prestigious Ethics Journals,” forthcoming in Hypatia.
Are Women Philosophers Underrepresented in Top Ethics Journals?
by Maggie Dalecki, Meena Krishnamurthy, Shen-yi Liao, Monique Deveaux
That philosophy has a gender problem is unlikely to be news to anyone who studies or works in the discipline. The gender imbalance is obvious in many (if not most) classrooms and in the make-up of most philosophy department faculties. The question of why philosophy has the gender imbalance that it does is complicated, and while it will probably never be possible to locate a single cause for it, there has been a lot of interest and promising research that is starting to investigate this multifaceted problem as of late.
In ‘The Underrepresentation of Women in Prestigious Ethics Journals’ (forthcoming, Hypatia), our goal was to investigate whether women are underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals relative to the number of women working in philosophy and specializing in ethics. While we recognize that the gender problem in philosophy is multifaceted, we focus on the issue of journal publishing because we think that if women are underrepresented in top philosophy journals, then this, in and of itself, is a significant aspect of the gender underrepresentation problem.
To preview, we found that women are underrepresented in ethics publishing. While the number of women who work in academic philosophy is already small, the number of female-authored articles that are ultimately published in prestigious ethics journals is even smaller. That women are more likely to specialize in ethics than in other subfields of philosophy does not suffice to mitigate this effect. Our hope is that our study opens the door to many other important questions, particularly pertaining to what sorts of things are causing this underrepresentation. In turn, answering this causal question might lead to a deeper understanding of the more general gender problem that is seen across philosophy as a whole.
What Does ‘Underrepresentation’ Mean?
We knew going into this study that there are more male than female-authored articles in prestigious ethics journals, but given that there are more men than women working in philosophy, this is to be expected. If, however, the proportion of woman- authored articles in prestigious ethics journals is lower than the proportion of woman philosophers specializing in ethics, this comparative information can help us to establish more clearly whether there is a gender problem specific to journal publishing (or whether the imbalance seen in journal publishing is just a symptom of the broader problem seen all over philosophy).
Publishing in the subfield of ethics is particularly relevant to the issue of journal publishing given that conventional wisdom has it that women are disproportionally likely to specialize in ethics (Haslanger, 2009, 3; Schwitzgebel and Jennings, Forthcoming). If the number of woman-authored articles is disproportionately small, even in a field where women are likely to specialize, the problem in philosophy publishing may be even worse than thought. The goal of our study was to determine whether women are underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals relative to their representation in the field.
We first estimated the percentage of women in philosophy who specialize in ethics. To do this, we used the faculty lists that accompanied the annual Philosophical Gourmet Report’s (PGR) ranking of the 50 departments between 2004 and 2014. We counted total faculty per department and determined the gender of each faculty member by appealing to the first names and pronouns used on departmental webpages and individual CVs. Next, we estimated the number of women specializing in ethics by looking at the stated AOS or research interest of each faculty member, again appealing to department or personal webpages and CVs. In 2004-2005 for example, women made up 19.1% of continuing faculty in the departments we looked at. 24.3% of those women had an AOS in ethics.
We then estimated the number of woman-authored articles in prestigious ethics journals. Here, we examined the table of contents of four ethics journals – Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (PPA), Journal of Political Philosophy (JPP), and Journal of Moral Philosophy (JMP) – between 2004-2014, counting the total number of publications as well as the gender breakdown of the authors of those publications. We included articles, literature review essays, discussion, debates, survey articles, and introductions in our counting of publications.
|Total||(49/263) 18.6%||(31/47) 21.1%||(74/260) 28.5%||(60/273) 22.0%|
Are Women Ethicists Underrepresented in Ethics Journals?
Finally, we compared the percentage of woman philosophers specializing in ethics to the percentage of articles authored by women and found that women are underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals relative to their representations in the field of ethics. Overall, we found that the mean proportion of women specializing in ethics from 2004-2014 was 27.1% (SD = 2.0%) while the mean proportion of women-authored articles published in prestigious ethics journals was 22.6% (SD = 2.3%). This difference was found to be statistically significant.
To look a bit deeper into the data, we compared the proportion of women in ethics to the proportion of woman-authored articles published by each of the four journals individually. Notably, the only journal with a statistically significant discrepancy in proportions was Ethics. Philosophy and Public Affairs, Journal of Political Philosophy, and Journal of Moral Philosophy did not show statistically significant differences between the proportion of woman-authored articles and woman ethicists. The numbers for Ethics (which is probably the most prestigious of the journals examined), when examined in isolation, are rather striking: in 2004 for example, we estimate that the percentage of women working in philosophy who specialized in ethics was 24.3%. The number of woman-authored articles published in Ethics in 2004 was just 8.0%. In 2014, the percentage of women specializing in ethics was 29.2% while women authored only 20.8% of the articles published in Ethics.
Our central finding was that yes, overall, women are underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals. In stating our central finding, it seems worth emphasizing that our study was carried out in a rather conservative way, meaning that the underrepresentation of women in prestigious ethics journals might actually be worse than we found. First of all, we counted any article with at least one woman author as ‘woman-authored’; many of the articles that we ended up counting also had male authors. This way of counting articles likely caused an overestimation of the proportion of women authored publications in the journals we considered. There is also evidence that our estimation of the number of women working in ethics is on the low side: Schwitzgebel and Jennings estimated the percentage of women specializing in value theory to be 34% (Schwitzgebel and Jennings, Forthcoming). Lastly, it seems safe to assume that, given the effects of prestige bias, women in the top 50 philosophy departments are more likely than those from non-top 50 departments to publish in prestigious ethics journals.
Our main goal in this study was to determine whether or not there is a discrepancy between the proportion of woman ethicists and the number of woman-authored articles being published in prestigious ethics journals. We found that there is. While our study doesn’t have anything to say about the cause of the discrepancy, we include in our paper a few suggestions for further research that might help to eventually answer the causal questions:
- Journals’ Definition of Ethics. While we used a very broad definition of ethics in estimating the number of women specializing in the field, it might be the case that prestigious journals use a more narrow definition of ‘ethics’. This is particularly concerning if the way that journals are defining ‘ethics’ discounts the subspecialties in which women are more likely to work. For example, do prestigious ethics journals view feminist social criticism and feminist political philosophy as falling outside of the scope of ethics? Such an effect has been noted in others fields of philosophy (Rooney, 2011) . If something like this is in fact contributing to the gender problem in ethics publishing, it would be important to look at this more closely.
- Professional Status. Are women in continuing positions more likely to publish in prestigious ethics journals? If so, women not holding such positions might face structural barriers to publishing in prestigious journals. Also, while we did not differentiate between assistant, associate, and full professors in determining the number of women who publish in ethics journals, there is evidence that woman philosophers are clustered in the assistant and associate professor ranks, and are underrepresented among full professors (Schwitzgebel and Jennings, Forthcoming). The four journals we studied do have anonymous peer review processes and so, in theory at least, professional status shouldn’t have any effect on the likelihood that someone gets their work published. However, as both editors and reviewers of journals articles are well aware, there are numerous ways in which the identity of authors might be revealed in the review process. This should also be looked at more closely.
- Types of articles. While our study did not differentiate between article types, it will be important to establish whether women are more likely than men to publish author-invited articles.
- Submission rate. Are women less likely than men to submit articles for peer review? Establishing the existence of this sort of phenomenon would be very difficult, especially given that the journals we surveyed do not collect submission data, but it is nevertheless an important question to ask.
Haslanger, Sally. 2009. Preliminary report of the survey on publishing in philosophy. Presented at the American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession Session, Eastern APA, December 2009. http://www.mit.edu/%7Eshaslang/papers/HaslangerPRSPP.pdf
Rooney, Phyllis. 2011. The marginalization of feminist epistemology and what that reveals about epistemology “proper.” In Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science: Power in knowledge, ed. Heidi Grasswick. New York: Springer.
Schwitzgebel, Eric, and Carolyn Dicey Jennings. 2017. Women in philosophy: Quantitative analyses of specialization, prevalence, visibility, and generational change. Public Affairs Quarterly 31: 83-105.
Art: Laurie Frick, “7 Days of a Man Age 25” (2015)